I went to the friends-and-family opening of Eataly in Liverpool Street earlier in the year. It was a raucous, fabulous affair, with good pasta, excellent wine, and chic-looking Italians singing Tony Bennett like their life depended on it. One winemaker became so excited that on finishing her rendition of Dean Martin’s Volare, she threw her microphone so far in the air it hit the ceiling.
The dinner was similar to one I enjoyed on a trip to Tuscany years ago where the family who hosted me decided to have a barn dance, complete with hay bales and cowboy hats, for no reason whatsoever. It was a little slice of Texas but with ragu pappardelle and I didn’t really understand what was happening. There was so much Chianti. Possibly more than at Eataly, where a balthazar had been passed around.
This is why pasta is important: it fuels ridiculousness. You cannot link arms with a Tuscan farmer in leather boots after a bowl of tomato soup. It would be too tiring. And you cannot sing Dean Martin, huskily, lights dazzling and red wine flowing, having not enjoyed at least a few twirls of carbonara.
Back to Eataly. True, it might be a corporate machine rather than a Tuscan enclave with a small moustached man from Bologna serving delicate bowls of tortellini en brodo. But it is great fun, and fun is too often forgotten when it comes to food these days.
So here’s the executive chef Massimiliano Santoro’s white ragu. Cook properly, and you’ll be barn dancing until 2022.
Pici Toscani al ragu bianco
350g Pici toscani pasta
200g Minced beef
200g Minced pork
1 Bay leaf
1 Rosemary sprig
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Peel and finely dice the carrot and onion, then cook in a pan with a drizzle of oil for a few minutes, until they are lightly browned.
Add the minced meat and sauté over a high flame for 2-3 minutes.
Lower the heat and deglaze with 1/2 glass of white dry wine.
As soon as it has evaporated, add 1/2 cup of vegetable stock, bay leaf, rosemary sprig, pinch of salt and pepper to taste.
Cover and continue cooking on a low heat, for at least 30-40 minutes.
Boil the pici in plenty of salted water – due to its thickness, this pasta usually takes a long time to cook (about 20 minutes).
Drain “al dente” Stir the pasta and ragù in a pan for 2 minutes, then serve!