My perfect Valentine’s Supper

My perfect Valentine’s Supper is as I am sure you could guess would be with my partner Susan. This year, unfortunately, we cannot be together, but when we do get the chance to sit down to eat together what would I cook? Well we both like pasta so a nice Italian style menu perhaps, a plate of anti-pasta to share, a rich Ragu or Bolognese sauce on the pasta and a light Zabaglione for dessert. Pasta it is then and when I first started to cook it the dish would be Spaghetti Bolognese as favoured by so many high street chains and local trattorias.

Slow-cooked Beef Ragu.jpg

But as I have developed and learnt about different cuisines, I can tell you this popular dish would be heresy in Bologna where the sauce originates from. Spaghetti Bolognese was probably created by Italian emigrants in the USA just like the creation of the Chinese dish General Tso’s Chicken. You see in Italy there are centuries of tradition and some very complex rules about pasta. Each shape is clearly defined and registered and suits a type of sauce or dish, your Bolognese coats and lubricates Rigatoni or Penne pasta, creating little pockets of meat and sauce, Spaghetti is best suited to lighter coatings maybe a recipe like Con Vongole with clams, a little garlic, oil and parsley. So for my authentic pasta, I am going to use Fettuccini and make a delicious slow-cooked ( ideal in fact for a slow cooker ) shin of beef ragout.

Fettuccini with slow-cooked Shin of Beef Ragu                                serves 4 to 6

1.2 kg Beef Shin brisket, cut into six to eight pieces,

( ask you butcher to cut up the Shin, it will be easier for him and to give you the bone )

2 large White Onions, peeled and very finely chopped

2 large Carrots, peeled and very finely diced

4 sticks of Celery, washed and very finely diced

4 Cloves of Garlic, peeled and crushed

1 bottle of good Italian Red Wine

500 ml good quality Beef Stock

100 ml quality Olive Oil

2 tablespoons of Tomato Puree

1 tablespoon of dried Oregano

3 Bay Leaves

½ teaspoon dried Thyme

½ teaspoon ground Nutmeg

Sea Salt and freshly ground Black pepper

 

500 gr Tagliatelli or other pasta of choice ( pappardelle is ideal)

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Fresh parsley, washed and finely chopped

In a large heavy-bottomed pan heat half of the olive oil over medium to high heat, season the beef and sear each piece on all sides until well browned, then set aside on a plate. Turn the heat down and add the remaining olive oil, add the onion, celery and carrots and sauté until soft. Add the garlic and cook for a couple more minutes*, then repeat with the tomato puree, stirring continuously to prevent burning. Return to beef to the pan and any juices and add all the remaining ingredients then bring up to a simmer, then turn it down to the lowest possible setting.

Cover the pan and let it cook for three to four hours until the beef is tender enough to pull apart with a fork. Remove the lid and let it cook for a further thirty minutes until the liquid has reduced to a thick sauce.

Remove the sauce from the heat and transfer the   beef from the sauce into a large bowl. Shred the beef with two forks and return it to the sauce. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper and keep warm.

*Celery and carrots sautéed with the onions and garlic is called “soffritto” in Italian cooking. It is a very traditional base for many Italian dishes.

 To Serve

Cook the pasta as per the instructions on the packet. You can reserve a little cooking liquid and toss the strained pasta, ragu and pasta water together or simply spoon the ragu on top of the cooked pasta. Serve with lots of freshly grated Parmesan and garnish with chopped parsley.

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