The most beloved pasta of Bologna is tortellini in brodo. I have explained in an earlier post the difference between this and tortelloni. I recently learned to make both of these and tagliatelle, which is the pasta usually eaten with ragù alla Bolognese, at the laboratorio of Bruno e Franco. This is one of my favourite salumerie in Bologna, and is the one we visited on our Delicious Bologna tour. We ate the pasta we made in the class. Yes, I really did eat a plate of tortellini in brodo, a plate of tortelloni with tomato and butter sauce, and a plate of tagliatelle with ragù for lunch. Tagliatelle is formed into nests to dry and each nest is one serve. As we had each made enough for four nests, we had six nests of tagliatelle to bring home, so I had to come up with three sauces during the week.
Sauce number one we had was lemon and cream. To make this, heat cream and lemon juice and zest in a pan. When it has reduced, toss the cooked pasta through the sauce with some chopped parsley and Parmigiana. Add some reserved pasta water to loosen the sauce if necessary. Season with black pepper. Simple!
For sauce number two we used up the cream and added mushrooms. Sauté diced onion until soft. Add sliced mushrooms and cook until soft. Add white wine and cook until it reduces by half. Add cream and simmer for 5 minutes. Toss the cooked pasta through the sauce with chopped parsley and Parmigiana. Add some reserved pasta water to loosen the sauce if necessary. Season with black pepper.
For sauce number three, we used up the mushrooms and added tomatoes and chilli. Sauté diced onion until soft. Add sliced mushrooms and chilli flakes. Cook until soft. Add red wine and cook until it reduces by half. Add tinned tomatoes and cook down, then add tomato paste and simmer 15 minutes. Toss the cooked pasta through the sauce with chopped parsley and Parmigiana. Add some reserved pasta water to loosen the sauce is necessary. Season with black pepper. As you can see, the process is simple and more or less the same every time – you just add to the core ingredients and you have a different sauce every day.
Last weekend we did a test drive of the pasta table in our apartment and successfully made a batch of our own hand-rolled tagliatelle. These hand rolled pastas are known as sfoglia – a word related to foglio meaning leaf or sheet – and the women, and it is usually women, who make them are called sfogline. We had expert tuition from our sfoglina.
I am not going to explain in detail how to make pasta because to do it well, I think you need to see the sfogline in action. What you do need to know is that the egg pasta which is used in most of the Bolognese dishes contains only flour and eggs. Those two ingredients are mixed to a soft dough and then, following a period of rest, rolled into a sheet so thin that you can see the Sanctuario di Madonna di San Luca through it. From here, cut your shapes, fill them or, in the case of tagliatelle, make the strips (6-9mm) into nests to rest and dry.
For our tagliatelle we had a cream and salmon sauce which is the basic cream and lemon sauce with flaked smoked salmon added after the cream has reduced a little and before adding the tagliatelle.
We made four nests and for sauce two, I made a ragù alla Bolognese. I bought 350g of beef, 150g pork and 100g pancetta and asked the macellaio at the Mercato delle erbe to grind it to the correct thickness. To make the sauce cook a soffritto – finely chopped celery, carrot and onion – with the minced pancetta until the vegetables are soft. Add the ground meat and cook until browned. You need to cook it until most of the fat has evaporated and you have a dryish mix. It can take a while but is totally worth it. Add a cup of red wine and let it evaporate, then add a cup of milk. Add 2 tbsp tomato paste and season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook at a very low heat for about three hours. If the sauce becomes dry add some stock. I didn’t need to do this. When ready to eat, cook the tagliatelle in plenty of well salted boiling water for a minute or two. My sfoglina advised, “drain them as soon as they float to the top and saute in a pan with abundant ragù, adding a handful of Parmigiana”.
There was ragù left so we made lasagne verdi, again preparing the sfoglia ourselves. To do this we replaced one of the eggs with 65g cooked spinach, finely chopped. We mixed the spinach with the egg and rolled it out as before. The pasta sheets were layered with the ragù and béchamel, topped with Parmigiana and baked. A classic Bolognese dish from scratch, in our own kitchen!