My last post was on Genoese meat ravioli, one of the most traditional dish of our Region. Unfortunately I did not have enought time to prepare and post also the recipe of their usual seasoning: “tocco” . So I fix it …though with some weeks of delays…
“Tocco” is the traditional Genoese meat sauce. Don’t call it ragù nor bolognese, it’s a different thing. It’s a sauce made by a big piece of beef (chuck is the best part) slow – slow – cooked under stock for at least 3/4 hours. The more it cooks the more all its juices come out and mix with the flavors of the other ingredients: the veggies of the soffritto, dried porcini, tomato paste, fresh herbs and white wine. You put it on fire early in the morning and it will keep you company in the kitchen, softly simmering below the lid, until lunch.
The result may be very liquid, this is why we usually water down a spoon of flour which thickens the sauce, though it shall remain light, a velvety vail that softly covers and embraces your pasta.
The piece of over cooked meat can be served sliced separately or can be minced finely for preparing meat balls. Do not give into the temptation of blending it into the sauce! You will get an horrible texture, a horrible color and your long cared sauce will be a total failure (I can speak for my own experience….).
A great lover of Genoese ravioli seasoned with”tocco” was Nicolò Paganini, our devil of the violin. It seems that despite his attitude and his popularity as a rockstar of the past, the musician also had a marked inclination for the stove. So much so that for Genoese ravioli and the Genoese meat sauce he left its recipe (the one you see above) , today preserved in the library of the Congress, in Washington (it was the year 1839).
- 1 stalk of celery
- 1 small white onion
- 1 carrot
- 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- 700 g of beef (chuck if possible) in one piece
- 1 tablespoon of dried porcini mushrooms
- 1 glass (about 120ml) of dry white wine
- 2 tablespoons of tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon of flour
- 2 liters of meat broth
- some sage, laurel and rosemary leaves
- Finely chop carrots, celery and onion.
- Put the dried mushrooms to soak in a small bowl full of water.
- In a saucepan with high sides pour four tablespoons of olive oil and sauté the chopped vegetables over medium heat for a couple of minutes.
- Put the whole piece of meat inside the saucepan and brown it (on all sides) together with the vegetables for five minutes, taking care not to burn the vegetables.
- Bring 2 liters of meat broth to a boil.
- Squeeze mushrooms and chop finely, keeping aside the soaking water.
- When the meat has browned and the vegetables will start to stick to the bottom of the pot, pour the white wine, possibly cold. Stir and let the alcohol evaporate for 2 minutes.
- Then add the mushrooms, previously finely minced, and their water, the tomato paste previously watered down with three tablespoons of water, and a tablespoon of flour also watered down in three tablespoons of water.
- Pour the hot stock up to cover the piece of meat for two thirds. Finally add a sprig of rosemary, 3/4 sage leaves and a bay leaf.
- Cover and cook over a low heat for at least three hours, turning the piece of meat from time to time.
- If the sauce is too liquid, after two and a half hours remove the lid and continue cooking at a very low heat until you reach the desired consistency.
- Adjust only at the end with salt and pepper.
- Season the pasta with the sauce leaving aside the piece of meat, excellent for other preparations (eg meatballs).
Talkning about Nicolò Paganini, I cannot but mention that in these days in Genoa the Paganini Genova Festival is taking place. From 2 to 28 October many concert, exhibitions and events linked to our rock star are taking place in town to celebrate his genius.