The Dinner Table, by Joseph Keiffer.
The Italian Recipe Exchange
Recipe: Tagliatelle Ragù Bolognese
Here’s the first posting for my new project “The Italian Recipe Exchange,” where you get the chance to send me a recipe you love (please click here to learn how), to share with the world
This lovely recipe for a chicken-liver-based ragù was sent to me by Chris, a Facebook friend. I cooked it up last night, invited a few friends over, and had a wonderful Dolcetto- and pasta-filled evening.
The recipe was given to Chris by the chef at Arqua, a restaurant in Tribeca, now unfortunately closed, that we both knew very well. Chris used to live around the corner from it, and I announced my wedding engagement to my parents over a beautiful dinner there. That was in the late 1980s, when the place was hopping but never annoying trendy (though Madonna was there that night). It was an elegant place where you could actually have a conversation.
The ragù turned out quite grand. It’s an opulent dish, for one that cooks so fast (about 40 minutes, as opposed to several hours for most ragù sauces). The key to its success is good ingredients (when aren’t they the key?), so I made sure to purchase free-range chicken livers (no Purdue for this), make my own stock (a mix of chicken and beef), use a glass of the Dolcetto we were drinking as an accompaniment, and have a fine chunk of Parmigiano Reggiano. The recipe says to finish the dish with either lemon zest, something I can never resist, or Parmigiano. Well, I used both, and the flavor was excellent. I didn’t overdo it with the cheese, though. This sauce can stand on its own.
I hope everyone will have a go at this amazingly delicious but easy ragù, and leave comments, especially if you might have something like it in your own repertoire and want to discuss variations or your personal take on it.
The wine I chose to go with it was a Dolcetto D’Alba produced by De Forville. I picked it up from a tiny shop called MCF Rare Wine, Ltd., that just opened on my block. If you happen to live in the West Village or anywhere in downtown Manhattan, do yourself a favor and check it out. The owners only buy from small producers and the stock is always changing. You’ll find bottles there you don’t see anywhere else. Here’s their website: http://mcf-rarewine.com/.
And here’s the note and recipe I received from Chris:
This is my all-time favorite recipe for tagliatelle ragu Bolognese, specifically as it is completely unorthodox (according to most recipes, and according to the “official” one). If you make this, your guests will never, ever guess that the sauce is 100% chicken liver. I have served this happily to men, women, and tons of children of all stripe who would faint or worse if they ever knew, and no one, not one person, has ever guessed, asked, or questioned this delicious sauce! The recipe was given to me by the chef at Arqua when I lived around the corner on Hudson Street waaaay back in the day, but I have since seen it in print somewhere. Anyway, this recipe was the chef’s grandmother’s (he from a chicken farm in the region—hence the liver), and I like it because it is very old school. Artusi suggested that the sauce as made centuries ago would contain the “gifts of the chicken,” and this is as close as I’ll come to adding the wattle and etc. Anyway: Mangia bene!
Tagliatelle Ragù Bolognese
2 tablespoons butter
½ cup finely chopped onion
¼ pound pancetta, cut into a fine dice
1 pound chicken livers, trimmed
¾ pound fresh mushrooms
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup dry red wine
2 cups hot beef or veal stock
¾ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
⅛ teaspoon grated nutmeg
½ cup heavy cream
1 pound fresh tagliatelle
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese or 2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
In a large saucepan or flameproof casserole, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and pancetta and cook 3 to 4 minutes, or until the pancetta is lightly browned and the onion is soft.
Add the chicken livers. Increase the heat to medium high, and cook, turning several times, 3 to 4 minutes, or until lightly brown but still pink in the center. Remove the livers with a slotted spoon, and reserve.
Add the mushrooms into the pan, and cook, stirring occasionally, 2 to 3 minutes to brown lightly. Using a slotted spoon, remove the mushrooms to a cutting board with the reserved livers. Chop the livers and mushrooms medium fine. Return them to the pan.
Add the tomato paste, wine, and stock. Bring to a boil, reduce.
Turn the heat to low, cover, and cook 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover and boil until the sauce is thick. Stir in salt, pepper, nutmeg, and cream. Simmer 2 minutes.
When the sauce is almost ready, cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender, 2 to 4 minutes; drain. Pour the pasta onto a warmed platter, and pour the sauce over top. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese or grated lemon zest.