Tacconi al ragù di carne macinata e funghi porcini secchi
Corn Pasta Squares with Beef and Mushroom Ragù
If you like corn, but think it is only for polenta, get to know tacconi. This pasta is often seen in the regions of Molise and Abruzzo, and elsewhere in Italy’s Mezzogiorno. The dough is made of finely ground corn flour, wheat flour, whole eggs, and water. Toothsome, with a nice bite and full of corn flavor, these small squares are no delicate, paper-thin pasta. Rolled to a thickness of 3 to 4mm, tacconi are hearty, a great match for Italy’s rich, soul-satisfying sauces. I tossed them with a ragù enriched with full-flavored beef broth and porcini mushrooms.
Cut the squares with a fluted rotello, or pastry cutter, and they make an eye-catching addition to a thick winter soup.
Beef broth lends backbone to this ragù, so be sure to use broth with good flavor. Some of the commercially available preparations sport metallic or off flavors, while others are bitter and thin tasting. Patiently tended, homemade beef broth or stock will deliver true, robust beef flavor, but good commercial ones, such as Stock Options, a frozen product, are available. The rule is taste the broth before you use it.
Dried porcini mushrooms add a silky richness and their own brand of earthiness to the ragù. Dried porcini last a long time, but they do not last forever. Place them in a tightly closed glass or ceramic jar, and store in a dark cabinet. You should get a big dose of mushroom perfume when you open the jar. If not, it is time to buy new.
Dried porcini must be reconstituted in liquid (water, broth or stock) prior to use. Place the mushrooms in a heatproof bowl and pour boiling liquid over them to cover. Leave them for about thirty minutes, during which time the mushrooms will absorb some of the liquid and impart their flavor to what liquid remains. The mushrooms will also give off grit as they rest in the soaking liquid. Strain the mushrooms out, reserving the liquid. This liquid adds wonderful flavor to soups and sauces, but must either be strained through several layers of dampened cheesecloth or carefully added to the sauce, holding back the last bit of liquid into which the grit will have settled.
One final note, I strongly urge you to grind your own meat. Recalls are ever more frequent as adulterants, allergens and harmful bacteria are found in our meat supply. Grinding your own hand-selected cut of fresh meat will guarantee that you know what you are getting. If you prefer, you can select your meat and ask your butcher to grind it for you.
Tacconi al ragù con carne macinata e porcini secchi
Ragù con carne macinata e porcini secchi
1 stalk celery, cut in 1-inch chunks
1 large carrot, cut in 1-inch chunks
1 small red onion, quartered
10 sprigs of Italian parsley
½ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more to finish, if desired
18 ounces chuck, preferably ground at home
¾ ounce dried porcini plus water to cover
1 cup Montepulciano d’Abruzzo or other full bodied red wine, such as Barolo
2 cups beef broth
24 ounces Passato (tomato puree)
1 clove of garlic, crushed
fine sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
Make the ragù: Place the celery, carrot, red onion and the sprigs of parsley, torn from their stems, in the workbowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse until well chopped and reduced to a pestata, a mixture of almost paste-like consistency. Heat ½ cup of extra virgin olive oil in a 4-quart heavy bottom Dutch oven. Add the pestata and a generous pinch of salt, and adjust the flame to medium-low. Cook, stirring often, adjusting the flame downward if necessary, to prevent scorching. Cook until well caramelized, about 1 hour.
Meanwhile, place the dried porcini in a medium bowl and pour 1 cup of boiling water over them to reconstitute. Set aside for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, strain the porcini, reserving the soaking water.
Transfer the drained porcini to a board and chop finely. Strain the soaking liquid through 3 layers of dampened cheesecloth to remove any grit. Reserve the water. It will be added to later in cooking. Set the chopped mushrooms and their strained soaking water aside.
While the pestata cooks, cut the meat into 1-inch chunks and place in the freezer for 20 minutes. Grind twice, first through a larger grinding plate and then again through a finer grinding plate.
Increase the heat to medium high and add the ground meat and crushed garlic clove to the cooked vegetable mixture. Cook, stirring often, until the meat is well browned, about 8 to 10 minutes.
Add the wine to the meat and vegetables and cook, stirring occasionally, until the wine has almost completely evaporated, about 5 minutes.
Add the passato, beef broth and mushroom soaking liquid. Increase the heat to high, and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to a very low simmer, and add the chopped mushrooms. Cook over low heat until thickened and dark, about 1½ hours. Remove and discard the garlic clove. Add a generous grinding of black pepper and if necessary, more salt. This sauce may be kept, well covered, in the refrigerator for 3 days or frozen for 2 months.
To make the dough in the food processor: Place the flours in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse to blend.
Lightly beat together the eggs and warm water in a small measuring cup. Remove the feed tube, and with the machine running, add the beaten egg mixture and process until small clumps form. If the mixture seems too dry, add a bit of warm water. If it is too wet, add additional corn flour, 1 teaspoon at a time, pulsing briefly.
Lightly dust a spianatoia (wooden board) or clean counter with flour. Transfer the dough to the spianatoia and knead it for about 3 to 5 minutes, until smooth.
Form the dough into a ball, and wrap it in plastic. Set it aside to rest for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
To make the dough by hand: Mound the flours on a spianatoia and mix well. Form a fontana, or well, by hollowing out a space in the center of the flour about the size of an orange. Crack the eggs into the fontana, and add the warm water, beating with a fork. With each stroke of the fork, bring a bit of the flour mixture into the egg mass, combining well, being careful to avoid creating lumps. Once the mixture has come together into a shaggy mass, use a bench scraper to push it aside. Scrape the spianatoia clean, discarding any hard pieces of flour and egg. Lightly flour the spianatoia and return the dough to it, kneading the dough until it is smooth, about 5 minutes. Form the dough into a ball, and wrap it in plastic. Set it aside to rest for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
Roll and cut the dough: After the dough has rested, lightly flour the spianatoia with flour and roll the dough to 3 to 4mm thickness.
Cut the dough lengthwise into in ¾ inch strips, and cut again crosswise at ¾ inch intervals to make ¾-inch squares.
Separate the tacconi and place them on lightly floured lint-free towels. Cover with a clean lint-free towel, and set aside to dry for 1 to 1 ½ hours.
Cook the pasta: Bring 6 quarts of water to a rolling boil. Salt the water liberally and add the tacconi. Cook for about 15 to 17 minutes, depending on their thickness, until almost cooked.
Finish the dish: Drain the tacconi and toss briefly in a saucepan over medium heat with 2 to 3 cups of hot ragu to finish cooking. Add a bit of olive oil to the tossed tacconi and serve topped with a dusting of Parmigiano.
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