For Tasmanian born Italian chef, Massimo Mele - “every Sunday was like Christmas when I was a child”. Food was “memories” and “stories” which were celebrated as a family affair.
A dish that appears on the table every Sunday in the Mele household is a traditional Italian ragu, served with handmade pasta. The beautiful thing about this dish is that Massimo uses tomatoes which were grown in his mother’s garden for his homemade passata, that forms the base of the sauce.
“Gourmet isn’t just an ingredient; it’s about tasting the difference,” says Massimo.
In Naples, the grandmothers would use knitting needles when making macaroni. Today, Massimo uses a wooden skewer to replicate this traditional technique in the home kitchen. “The idea is that there’s a hole that goes through the middle which soaks up the sauce and gives you a beautiful tasting dish”
Here, Massimo shares his family recipe for Easter Sunday lunch Italian style, along with his top tips for making pasta at home. And if you want to know his Mamma Maria’s secret to perfect pasta… “cook with love!”
Massimo’s five tips for making pasta at home
1. Use good quality flour and eggs – that gives you that beautiful orangey colour when making the pasta dough
2. Always use ingredients that are in season
3. Add salt to boiling water and use ten parts water to one part salt
4. Cook pasta in a large pot to allow space for your pasta to move
5. You will know that your handmade pasta is ready when it rises to the surface. Your pasta should be slightly chewy and be uniform in colour
250g/8.83ozs. semolina flour
250g/8.83ozs. all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
200ml/7fl ozs. water
Traditional Ragu Sauce
5 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 small celery, finely chopped
A handful of fresh basil leaves
2-3 fresh bay leaves
250g beef shin
500g pork spare ribs
2 large pork and fennel sausages
2 tablespoons of Mutti tomato paste
100ml of good quality red wine
3 x 400g tins of passata
Salt and pepper
100g of parmesan or pecorino
- To make the pasta dough, put all of the ingredients into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the mixture begins to form a ball.
- Add a little water if the dough is dry. Remove the dough from the bowl, form into a rough ball and let it rest for 10 minutes.
- To roll out the pasta cut a piece of pasta dough about the size of a thumb and place on a wooden skewer and roll backwards and forwards until you have a long cylinder about two inches long. Make and set aside.
You can also make orecchiette using this pasta dough - just shape into a small ball and press down to make an indent with your thumb.
Traditional Ragu Sauce
- Heat half of the extra virgin olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the beef, ribs and sausages and fry for a few minutes, turning frequently to brown well.
- Remove the meat and set aside. Add the remaining olive oil followed by the onion, celery, bay leaves and cook until softened.
- Add the meat back into the pot followed by the tomato paste. Cook for about one minute then add the red wine and cook for a few minutes until the liquid has reduced slightly by half.
- Add the passata to the pot and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat. Pre-heat your oven to 150 degrees. Place a lid on top of the saucepan and cook in the oven for three hours. Every hour, remove the lid and give it a stir. If your oven seems to be drying the sauce out, then lower the temperature.
- Once cooked, remove the meat from the pot and place onto a serving plate to keep warm. Separate all of the meat from the bones and add the meat back into the sauce. With the sausages, chop these into pieces and add back to pot. Discard the leftover bones.
- Cook the handmade pasta in salted boiling water for between 4 – 5 minutes. Add the cooked pasta to the sauce and stir together ensuring the pasta is well coated. Season with salt, pepper and add fresh basil. Add half the grated pecorino and mix well.
- To serve, ladle the pasta into four serving bowls, top with some of the meat and more pecorino if you wish.