Ok, we have all heard of spaghetti bolognese and I must admit it is a delight; nice spaghetti with a very rich tomato sauce. However, to Italians, there is no such thing as spaghetti bolognese. It is a dish that became common amongst the Italian immigrants who were arriving in America in their hundreds of thousands at the star of the twentieth century, escaping dire poverty in Italy, in particular the south. This is an important point, as spaghetti is much more common in southern Italian cuisine rather than northern. So this southern pasta was mixed with a tomato and meat sauce and you got spaghetti bolognese. After tonights ragu di Bologna however, I am not going back to spag bol!
Pasta debate aside, I actually took this opportunity to perfect my potato Gnocchi, little delightful pillows that resemble potato dumplings. These go well with any sauce as they absorb a lot of the flavour. To get the perfect Gnocchi, mix approx 150g of mashed potatoes (do not add any butter or milk or cream) with 100g 00 flour, 1 egg and a pinch of salt. You are looking for a nice dry dough, if it too runny it will result in soggy heavy Gnocchi. Take a handful of the dough at a time and roll out into a thing sausage shape, the with a sharp knife cut into roughly 2cm long dumplings. Take each individual Gnocchi and press into a fork to get a channel pattern, this is not for decoration it will help absorb more sauce! Now onto the sauce….
The thing that made the difference with this ragu was the inclusion of chicken livers. This gives an extra dimension both in terms of texture and of course taste. What I have discovered recently is that there are not many Italian dishes that do not include certain basics: carrots, celery, onion and garlic. So, add of all of these with some pork mince, chopped pork and some blended chicken livers. All you need now is some tomatoes, so add a good deal of tomato paste (to give a lovely concentrated flavour) and some delicious passata (sieved tomatoes). Another secret to this is to have it cooking for hours, you will not get the desired flavours if you only have it cooking for a short time,vin this case good things definitely come to those who wait! I waited for more than 4 hours today, and it was good good good!
Your Gnocchi will take only a few minutes to cook in boiling water and they will tell you when they are ready by floating to the top. I was overjoyed with my Gnocchi tonight as they were perfectly fluffy and soaked up the flavour of the ragu brilliantly.
Add your Gnocchi then top with a good load of the ragu, sit back and enjoy. 4 hours in the making but a dish that will live with me for a very long time, food does that doesn’t it?
I have a group of old friends coming over on Friday night, I now know what I will be cooking them! I hope wherever you are you are having both your stomachs and your souls fed, happy eating everyone!