Of all the grains finding their way onto grocery store shelves, none has surged in popularity quite like red fife. A wheat that was dominant in much of the world in the 19th century, red fife fell out of favor; but thanks to its herbal, nutty, faintly sweet qualities, it was revived by North American farmers in the early 2000s.
“Like all whole grains, red fife has more protein and fiber than refined grains,” says La Pecora Bianca’s Simone Bonelli, who specializes in making traditional (ancient grain) Italian pasta using local, organic whole-grain flours. “I love it in our tagliatelle Bolognese for its nutritional value as well as its texture and consistency.”
Bolognese sauce, traditionally served with long, flat ribbons of tagliatelle—a pasta similar to fettuccine—is a classic of Italian cuisine. When made properly, it bears little resemblance to the “meat sauce” you find in your neighborhood Italian joint. Proper technique involves simmering it for hours—and when you think it’s done, simmering it another hour so everything integrates into a silky, uniform sauce.
To make this pasta, mix it directly on the countertop, knead it a few minutes, then roll it out. If you don’t have a pasta roller, use a wine bottle. and if you can’t find red fife flour, use any other whole-grain flour, or make your own by pulverizing whole grains to a powder in a coffee grinder.
And remember: Proper Bolognese is simmered for hours. When you think it’s done, simmer it for another hour.
Courtesy Chef Simone Bonelli of La Pecora Bianca in New York City.
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Makes 6 servings
- For the pasta:
- 2 cups red fife flour (or substitute emmer, spelt, or Kamut flour)
- 1 cup "00" or "Italian-style" flour (or substitute all-purpose flour)
- 4 eggs, beaten
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 1 Tbsp water
- For the sauce:
- 1 onion, minced
- 1 carrot, minced
- 3 celery stalks, minced
- 5 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 lb ground pork
- 3/4 lb ground beef
- 1/4 lb fresh pork sausage (removed from casing)
- 2/3 cup red wine
- 1 cup canned crushed tomatoes
- 4 cups chicken stock
- Tied in a cheesecloth:
- 12 peppercorns
- 5 juniper berries
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 sprig rosemary
- 1 sprig thyme
How to make it
For the pasta: Mix flours together and pile on a countertop, making a crater in middle. Add eggs, oil, and water to crater and, using your hands in a circular motion, gradually mix flour into wet ingredients until dough forms. Knead for 5 minutes, or until smooth and silky. (If dough is sticky, add flour; if it crumbles, add water.) Wrap in plastic; let rest in fridge for 2 hours. Divide into 2 parts and, using a pasta roller, rolling pin, or wine bottle, roll each half into a thin rectangle. Cut into 1/4-inch strips. Cook in boiling salted water for 2 to 3 minutes, or until al dente.
For the sauce: In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, cook onion, carrot, celery, and garlic in oil until tender. Add meats; cook until brown. Add wine; cook until it evaporates. Add tomatoes and stock, lower heat, add cheesecloth with seasonings, partially cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 4 hours. Discard cheesecloth when done.