Tajarin al Ragù
This is our version of the classic Piedmontese dish. Tajarin is a thin ribbon pasta enriched with plenty of egg yolks, giving it its distinctive golden colour. It's a staple in Piedmont, and will typically be served with either a meat ragù of some type, or a simple butter and sage sauce, also perhaps with shaved truffle, when in season. You can buy dried tajarin at some Italian specialist stores, or you can, of course, just use another egg pasta. If you’re making it yourself, simply follow the normal process for making pasta but use only yolks instead of whole eggs and run the laminated sheets through the finest cutter. For a traditional pasta recipe (as well as a ragù typical of Emilia-Romagna) and instructions on hand rolling, please read our Man in Milan’s journal post on the subject.
This ragù is not a traditional Piedmontese recipe as such (nuanced differences in traditional recipes are fiercely defended and derided amongst Italians, so we’re not getting involved there – for more on this phenomenon check out this post, and on why spaghetti bolognese isn’t Italian, read this), but it is a deeply flavoured and luscious sauce that has evolved over the years. Chuck steak gives the best results both for flavour and texture – the fat ratio is ideal, it has a strong beefy flavour and the connective tissue melts and gives lustre to the sauce. Making sure that the mince has come up to room temperature means that it won’t ‘bleed’ water when cooked and will fry rather than boil (thanks, Giorgio Locatelli). Using good stock also adds to the intensity, as it adds depth and helps to bring more texture to the sauce, but using water is fine too.
1 large knob of butter
extra-virgin olive oil
1 brown onion, finely diced
1 carrot, finely diced
1 celery stalk, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, peeled
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 kg beef mince (preferably chuck), brought up to room temperature
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 rosemary sprig
1 bay leaf
500 ml white wine
2 x 400 g cans diced tomato
1 litre beef/chicken stock or water
100 g per person fresh or dried tajarin (or substitute for any egg pasta)
finely grated Grana Padano, to serve
Heat the butter and a good splash of oil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until softened, then add the carrot, celery and garlic, season with salt and continue cooking until just starting to caramelise.
Turn the heat to high and add the meat. Cook until browned, then season lightly with salt and pepper.
Add the tomato paste and herbs to the pan and stir for a couple of minutes until the paste darkens, then add the wine and reduce until almost dry. Add the tomatoes and stock, stir through and bring up to a simmer. Turn the heat to low and cook for about 2 hours, stirring the ragù from time to time and adding some water if necessary to loosen the sauce. Crush the garlic cloves with the back of your spoon towards the end of cooking.
Once you’re happy with the consistency and flavour, season with salt and pepper to taste. The ragù is ready to go, but it will always be better if it sits on the stovetop for an hour or so before reheating, and will be better again with a few days in the fridge – you just may need to add a little water or stock when warming through, and check the seasoning as it will probably need a little more.
Cook the pasta in plenty of boiling well-salted water until al dente, drain briefly and then toss through in a pan with enough hot ragù to coat the pasta. Serve with grated Grana Padano.