Monday, July 27, 2009


No, I have not gone over to the dark side. The familiar glass or plastic jar with the yellow and blue label isn't what I'm talking about here. I thought it was about time to break out my new Atlas pasta roller--I gave one away about 20 years ago when I bought a pasta machine, but have discovered that I much prefer to make my pasta by hand--no food processor and no slick machine. The new one I bought is more of a Cadillac than the one I had, and I doubt if I'll be buying any fresh pasta sheets at my local Italian deli anytime soon. About the hardest thing about making pasta by hand is cleaning the rollers afterward.

The entry for "ragu" in the food dictionary at states: "A staple of northern Italy's Bologna, ragu is a meat sauce that is typically served with pasta. Though different than the French RAGOUT, both are derived from the verb ragoƻter , which means 'to stimulate the appetite.' Ragu usually contains ground beef, tomatoes, onions, celery, carrots, white wine and seasonings." Not to put too fine a point on it, this ragu contained pork spareribs and a good Sicilian red wine. A look in the freezer revealed 4 cooked sweet sausage; the refrigerator held about 3/4 pound of rare, grilled chuck steak. It all went into the pot. The fragrance from this sauce, which contains no garlic by the way, is impossible to describe other than to say it will make your mouth water and probably cause you to move up your dinnertime.

I love kneading dough and, since I generally take Saturdays and Sundays off from my regular workout routines, kneading this egg dough for 10 minutes was a great upper body workout. You can really work up a sweat! If you're not into making your own pasta, just make the ragu and substitute a good fresh pasta. I really wanted to make pappardelle, a very wide (almost the width of a lasagna noodle) pasta, but Larry likes very thin pasta. The fettuccine was a compromise.

I should have cooked half the pasta and saved the other half (in the refrigerator, wrapped well, it will last for a couple of weeks). The recipe yields much more than the 1 lb that was stated in the Williams-Sonoma cookbook, Essentials of Italian.

Pork Ragu
1 1/2 lb meaty pork spareribs, cut into individual ribs
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tbs olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 - 28 oz can San Marzano tomatoes, squeezed by hand

Pat the ribs dry with paper towels and sprinkle with salt and pepper. In a Dutch oven over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the ribs and cook, turning as needed, until browned on all sides (15-20 minutes). Transfer the ribs to a plate with a slotted spoon.

Add the onion, carrot, and celery to the pot, reduce the heat to medium, and cook, stirring frequently, until tender and golden (about 10 minutes). Add the wine and bring to a boil, scraping up the browned bits (1 minute). Cook for 1 minute to burn off the alcohol. Add the tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Return the ribs to the Dutch oven, cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook about 2 1/2 hours, until the meat comes away easily from the bone and is very tender.

While the ribs simmer in the sauce, make the pasta.

Fresh Egg Pasta Dough
12 1/2 oz (2 1/2 cups) unbleached, all purpose flour, plus more for dusting
4 large eggs
2 tsp olive oil

To make the pasta by hand, I use a silicone mat as my surface. I place the flour on the mat, make a well into which I crack the eggs and add the oil. Using my fingers, I work the dough until it takes on a shaggy appearance. As soon as it comes together in a ball, I begin kneading. It generally takes 10 minutes to get the right consistency, after which I cover it with a large overturned bowl and let it rest for 30 minutes.

When the dough has rested, cut it into 4 - 6 pieces and follow the directions for your particular pasta roller to roll it out to 1/16th of an inch, then cut into the desired shape. Lay the pasta out on a tablecloth and let dry for at least 1 hour.

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Add 2 tbs of salt. Add the pasta, stir well, and cook, stirring, until al dente, 1 or 2 minutes should do it. Drain, add to the ragu, and toss. Sprinkle with cheese and toss again.

To Finish the Ragu:
Use a slotted spoon to remove the ribs from the sauce and let cool slightly. Use 2 forks to remove the meat from the bone and shred it. Return the meat to the pan and cook, uncovered, over low heat, until the sauce thickens, another 15-30 minutes.
I was very happy with how thin I was able to roll out the pasta with very little effort. The last time I made pasta by hand, I used a rolling pin to roll it out and it was very time consuming. I used a brush that is designed to take the silks off corn to clean the pasta roller, but am going to look for a long-handled brush. While there's no denying that it makes a mess of the kitchen, I will be making handmade pasta again very soon. It's worth the clean up. It looked so beautiful and tasted so incredibly light.


  1. Hi Arlene!
    I love pappardelle so you can make this dish for me anytime! :-)

    My husband bought the Kitchen Aide mixer pasta cutter for me for my birthday. I always cut by hand before that. It took some getting use to it ( cuts very fast!) but it saves a lot of time, so we're both happy now!

  2. Arlene,

    Pork ragu is the best! Nicely done!

  3. I want to slurp some of those noodles!

  4. I love a good ragu and the homemade pasta just puts it over the top--YUM!

  5. I'm licking my lips and drooling over here. Comforting pork yummy. I'm with you on the thick papparadelle, they are one of my favorites. My husband is the same way. He loves angel hair and all the thin pastas. You are much better than me because I don't always compromise ;) It all looks absolutely delicious!!

  6. I'm so impressed with your pasta making skills! It always looks just divine.

  7. Those noodles are what I am after. The are comfort food and they look like comfort food.


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