When Rosana makes her traditional bolognese sauce, the distinct aroma of the recipe helps bring back warm memories for her and her family.
Similar to many families with roots in Northern Italy, spending the day making bolognese sauce (“Sugo”) and pasta helped shape family traditions that still continue today. Rosana’s mother would simmer the sauce on the stove all day and fill the house with an aroma that is now recognized by not only Rosana and her siblings, but her children, and grandchildren.
“One day the sauce was simmering on the stove, and my son stopped by for a visit. The first thing he said was, it smells like Nonna’s here!”
The connections that were formed within Rosana’s family by cooking sauce and pasta together have surpassed her mother’s lifetime. “After my mother passed away, my father wouldn't settle for store-bought food or even "meals on wheels" since he was used to my mother always cooking homemade meals. I would cook the sauce for him just like how my mother used to, and he loved it, which gave us all some respite from missing her.”
The bolognese sauce needs to simmer for at least a couple hours, leaving plenty of time to make the homemade pasta. “This is a great communal task! Whether making long sheets for lasagna, or nests of fettucine, even young children can get involved.” Making pasta is a simple way to bring together multiple generations of the family. And while it’s easy to head to the local grocery store to pick up a box, making fresh pasta is so rewarding and worth every minute.
“The pasta melts in your mouth. There’s really nothing like it.”
This is a rich, hearty sauce for either lasagna or fettucine/spaghetti. May be prepared the day before to let the flavours meld.
2 T oil
1 T butter
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, diced very fine (can also add 2 stalks of finely diced celery if desired)
250 grams finely minced pork and 250 grams finely minced veal (traditional) OR just use 500 grams of ground chicken or even dried lentils if you wish to make a vegetarian version
1 T crumbled dried sage
1-2 bay leaves
1 T dried rosemary
1 T tomato paste
1 cup red wine
1 cup stock or water
1 jar “passata” (360 grams) or about 1-2 cups
1-2 sprigs parsley, salt and pepper to taste
1. Sauté the onion and garlic in the oil for a few minutes. (add celery if using)
2. When soft, add butter, spices and the ground meat.
3. When browned, add the rest of the ingredients, bring to a gentle boil and simmer for 1-2 hours. Stir occasionally. It should have a glossy shimmer at the surface when done.
4. Before serving, remove celery and bay leaves. Add the salt and pepper to taste.
5. Serve with freshly ground parmesan cheese.
What you will need:
• All purpose, unbleached flour, olive oil, salt and eggs for the dough.
• A bowl of flour to use in the process.
• A pasta machine. “Imperia” makes them if you are looking to purchase a new or used one.
• A pizza cutter (wheel) to cut the pasta.
• Trays and counter space to let the pasta rest and dry (some people hang it on laundry racks or the backs of chairs) I like to use cornmeal to dust the finished pasta with as it will keep it dry and then just settle to the bottom of the pot as the pasta cooks.
• To cook the pasta, a large pot of salted water, a sieve to scoop out the pasta and if making lasagna, a bowl of cold water to rinse and hold the cooked sheets.
Earlier in the day, make your pasta. For 4-6 people, you will need:
• 1.5 cups flour
• 3 eggs
• 1.5 teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon olive oil
To make a larger lasagna, able to feed 8, double the amounts. Mound flour on the counter, or in a large bowl.
Make a deep well in the center. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, salt and oil. Pour it into the well and start incorporating the flour with a fork. Eventually switch to your hands and push all of the flour into the liquid, gathering it together and shaping it into a ball. Knead it for 10 minutes until it is smooth and dry. Wrap it in plastic and let it rest for 20 minutes.
Set up the pasta machine. Sprinkle with flour and keep your bowl of flour nearby to use as you are making the pasta. Away from the machine, spread the cornmeal on the counter or on towels on trays or a table as the place where you will put the finished pasta to dry.
Cut the dough into quarters and leave them in the plastic until you are ready to work them. Dip the quarter into the bowl of flour and shape it into a flat log. Feed it through the widest gap between the rollers of the machine. Fold it in two or three and keep feeding it through the widest gap until it is smooth, usually about 3-4 times.
Repeat this with all of the quarters.
Reduce the gap between the rollers, one notch at a time, feeding through the pasta and cutting it with the pizza wheel into the desired lengths. Remember that it will shrink a bit when it cooks. For fettucine, roll to the thinnest gap. For spaghetti and lasagna roll to the second-thinnest gap. Feed through the cutting attachment for noodles.
Let dry, sprinkled with the cornmeal, for at least 10 minutes before using. For the lasagna, you can layer it between clean tea towels or waxed paper once it has dried and is no longer sticky. For the fettucine, you can shape them into nests. Pasta can be frozen on a baking sheet and then transferred into plastic bags, sealed and kept in the freezer till needed.
Cooking the pasta
You need a big pot with lots of salted water, at a rolling boil. Fresh pasta cooks in minutes. Add the pasta and stir gently. Test for “done-ness” and drain when ready. For lasagna, scoop the sheets with a sieve and dump them into a bowl of cold water to rinse and cool. Remove the water with your hands as you use the noodles, or lay them briefly on a dry towel, before overlapping them by a quarter of an inch for each layer.