I love my cooking sojourns in the Gaspé. Down home the ingredients are limited, the stores are so far away that the inconvenience sets a stage that necessitates the mothering of much innovation. For some nights I'd been dreaming about the Rigatoni Genovese recipe that I posted earlier, but I knew I wasn't going to find veal tail, rigatoni, and possibly not even fresh tomatoes. Turns out the larder had round steak, flour + eggs, and Ti-Nou brought in a load of unripe and moldy tomatoes.
The answer to the evening's menu was founded thus: hand-rolled paparadelle and round-roast ragu.
Paparadelle and Ragu
Photo: Maria Giuliani
4 cloves garlic
1 carrot, chopped
500 grams round roast
1 tsp dried thyme
1.5 tsps black pepper
2 red peppers
2 cups red wine
3 cups tomato sauce (preferably home-made with 12 tomatoes)
2 tbsps tomato paste
Finely chop 2.5 onions and fry them in a small amount of olive oil. After a couple of minutes, add in the chopped carrots and celery and cover. Once the onions, carrots, and celery have softened add in the garlic and re-cover for a couple of minutes. Remove from the heat and puree to make the flavour base.
Save the other 1/2 an onion for cooking up your tomato sauce. I tossed my 12 barely ripe tomatoes in the with onion and 1/2 tbsp of butter and pureed the mess (sans onion) when it was soft. The sauce was alright, but lacked flavour due to the quality of the tomatoes, hence the tomato paste. Frankly, before the tomato paste, my ragu was still brown from the meat.
Slice up the roast and brown off in a pan a few pieces at a time. My parent's have this awesome antique copper pan that conducts the heat and I used it to brown off the meat in batches at a high-heat. Normally I probably would have down this using an oil with a high smoking point - like clarified butter or safflower oil -- but in this case I just used regular butter. Once finished I de-glazed with a bit (1/4 cup) of beef stock we had kicking around, but you can just use the red wine.
Combine the beef with the flavour base and the other ingredients and cook down until thickened, preferably at a low heat over 2-3 hours. Like most ragus and stews, this sauce will really rock the next day, when the flavours have had a chance to come together.
Hand-rolling pasta is a real pain, but it's worth it if you can get it right. I won't bog this article down with the best recipe for pasta, any basic pasta recipe will do. Once the dough has been kneaded and has sat for 20 minutes, begin rolling it out. Rolling a fresh batch of pasta involves a lot of stretching and pulling, which makes for a lot of minor tears that will help the sauce stick to it later.
This pasta is heavy, rich, and meaty. For my meat-and-potato-loving guests it was a sure win. Toss the pasta with the sauce in a separate bowl or cooking the pasta into the sauce, as you wish. Save 1/4 - 1/2 of the sauce for service and top it off the pasta on the plates. Sprinkle it with some cheese or some hot pepper pickles or however you think will best go over with the guests.