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Have you noticed that people have been dropping like flies lately? No? Just me? Well, that’s December—holiday times, finishing out the year, constant running around, and many, many dead people. I don’t know if it’s the holidays or the change in season. Maybe people just forgot to die all year and they’re really trying to wrap it all up. It happens like this every December. The fact that people are dying en masse every day really has nothing to do with the subject of today’s newsletter. Except to say that I have been terribly busy and on Saturday I had a rare opportunity to stay home and cook something delicious. Also, to note that when I said on Monday that the newsletter would be ready on Tuesday, I had no way of foreseeing all the dead people that the next 24 hours would bring. Alas, it’s Wednesday and my life is not my own.
I bought a chuck roast because I intended on making beef stew & beef stock recipes for the mailer this week. I came home on Friday and seasoned the roast with salt and left it uncovered in the refrigerator for the following day. Then on Saturday morning I ventured out into the world to run errands. It was rainy and gloomy and crappy and cold, and it was amazing. I love a gloomy day almost more than any other kind of weather. Which is good because I live in a city that promises grey skies nearly all the time. And the weather had me daydreaming of homemade pasta.
I am going to interject at this point and say that I personally hate it when I have to scroll through someone’s entire weekend story to get to a recipe that I want to make. My bestie and I refer to this as “me and Jeremy went to the farmer’s market.” It’s one of the most annoying things on the internet. But you signed up to be here so I’m going to tell you this story and take a roundabout way of making the ultimate point that improvisation is the greatest tool in cooking.
Anyway, the weather had me feeling like I needed to make homemade pasta—the kind of homemade pasta that is dense and chewy. Obviously, this calls for some sort of meaty sauce. I had a seasoned chuck roast at home. The roast would be sacrificed for the greater good and to the potential detriment of this newsletter. The beef stew plan immediately went out the window and my brain began to invent a recipe. I was about to pick up groceries (which I feel like I do 5 times per week) when I realized that I had everything I needed at home.
This moment, when I leave reality and enter the grocery store of my own home and mentally take stock of what is currently in my kitchen that can contribute to this meal, is my favorite part in the process of cooking. I have onions, garlic, carrots, mushrooms, canned tomatoes. I even have a couple bottles of wine hanging around. I have flour and eggs. They say that necessity is the mother of invention. Well, I say improvisation is the mother of invention of delicious dinners. I went home and started cooking using only things that I already had in my refrigerator and pantry. You should do it too.
BEEF RAGU WITH HOMEMADE PASTA
Feeds 6 people or 2 people for 6 days
3-5lb. chuck roast
1 lb. crimini mushrooms
1 yellow onion diced
6 large garlic cloves
2 carrots diced
1/4 cup red wine
3 cans whole peeled tomatoes
2 bay leaves
1 thyme bundle
450 grams all purpose or 00 flours
260 grams eggs
1 tbsp. kosher salt
The day before, salt the roast and refrigerate overnight. Heat a Dutch oven to medium high, add a tablespoon of olive oil and sear your chuck roast on both sides until a crust has formed, at least 5 minutes on each side. Things will probably get smoky. Take the roast out and set it aside. Lower the heat to medium and brown the mushrooms in batches, don’t overcrowd the bottom of the pot. Remove the mushrooms and set aside. Add the onion, garlic, and carrot and sweat for a few minutes. Add salt and wine (I used merlot). Use a spoon to scrape up any bits off of the bottom of the pot. Add the roast and mushrooms back in and pour the tomatoes over top. Stir to incorporate everything and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer covered for at least two hours.
While the sauce is simmering, make the pasta. This pasta recipe is Evan Funke's egg dough recipe. I've been using it every time I make pasta for the last two years. Even if you don’t follow it, I recommend reading through the recipe. This Pasta Professional has much knowledge. When making homemade pasta, I use my stand mixer with an attachment. If you don't have a mixer, you can absolutely do it all by hand. It's great to use the mixer especially when you're trying to make a tougher noodle because it does all the kneading for you. If you are using your hands, knead vigorously for 10 minutes. It’s good to have a partner for this. I also laminate the pasta dough 6 or 7 times. It needs to be worked intently to ensure sufficient gluten formation. You want to make sure the noodles are going to be the perfect texture now but also that they will stand up to reheating for days to come. If you scrimp on this step, you will have a mushy disgrace. When your dough is sufficiently worked, roll it into a ball and let it sit for at least 20 minutes and up to 24 hours. Roll it out to your desired thickness and cut it to your desired shape. I do a 4 on the roller attachment and a fettuccini or tagliatelle.
When the chuck roast is tender, remove it from the sauce and shred it, discarding any large portions of fat. Add it back into the sauce. Discard the thyme bundle. Boil the pasta for two or three minutes in a separate pot of salted water. Add the pasta to the ragu using a slotted spoon or tongs. Reserve ¼ cup of pasta water and add it to the sauce with the pasta. Simmer until the pasta water is absorbed and the noodles are cooked through. At this point, your Dutch oven is probably overflowing. Feel free to transfer everything to a large mixing bowl. Add 2 handfuls of cilantro – you can do basil or parsley if you aren’t a cilantro girl. Grate some fresh parmesan over the dish. Get a few slices of white bread and butter. It’s time. After dinner, package your ragu into some tuppies so you can eat this for lunch all week. Or take some to your neighbors. Don’t you feel great?
I hope you’re all having the best week ever and that the impending holiday isn’t weighing heavy on you. Don’t fret. It’s going to be okay. I love you. Additionally, if you have made it all the way here and are somehow unaware that I am a full time Funeral Director — I do sincerely apologize for my introduction to this mailer. Let me be the first to tell you, I am a full time Funeral Director and it do be like that sometimes. I must make comedy lest I go insane. To anyone who may be grieving a recent loss, I love you. It really sucks. It doesn’t go away but it slowly gets easier. You’re not alone.
I hope you get everything you want for Christmas and I hope you get to see all of your most beloved friends and family members in a place that is pandemic free!