Most of the time I use my all-purpose pasta dough recipe when making homemade noodles. But this past weekend I took a virtual trip to Piemonte and made tajarin, hand-cut egg noodles typical of this northern region. I’m going to be demonstrating how to make them on Friday at the annual NIAF (National Italian American Foundation) gala, so this was my test run.
Tajarin ~ pronounced ‘tah-yah-REEN’ ~ are a popular pasta cut in and around Torino. (During a visit in 2015 my family and I ate copious amounts, most often dressed in a rich ground meat sauce.) The word is Piemontese dialect for “tagliolini” and derives from the verb “tagliare,” meaning “to cut.”
What distinguishes tajarin from other fresh pasta is the amount of egg yolks that go into the dough ~ lots. Some recipes call for only flour and yolks, others for a combination of whole eggs and yolks, which is what I ended up using. In reading the various recipes I found in my old Italian cookbooks, I noticed that a couple called for adding a spooonful of grated Parmigiano cheese. I left it out, but might give it a try next time.
After the dough has been kneaded and has rested, it is stretched into very thin sheets. These are folded upon themselves (strudel-like) and cut into strands, the thinner the better (not as easy as it looks). To keep the rolled up noodles from sticking, I found it helped to sprinkle semolina on the pasta sheets before folding them. In Piemonte they might use very fine cornmeal, but since I’m Abruzzese, semolina is what I had on hand. After cutting, I simply fluffed up the noodles with my fingers and placed them on a towel-lined baking sheet.
You can serve tajarin a number of ways. If they are very thin ~ angel hair-thin ~ they are served in broth. Slightly wider noodles, like those pictured here, are served with meat sauce ~ typically ground meat and sausage, rabbit ragù, or sauce made from chicken livers and gizzards. In Alba, tajarin are tossed with butter and shaved white truffle. Don’t I wish. I dressed these with porcini mushroom ragù, another traditional sauce, which seemed just right for a chilly October evening.
If you are local to the D.C. area, why not watch me demonstrate how to make these delicate noodles at 11 a.m. on Friday at the Marriott Wardman Park? The event is free, and I’ll also be offering samples from my latest book, Preserving Italy.
These delicate, hand-cut egg noodles are a specialty of Torino and the surrounding the Langhe area of Piemonte. Because they are so thin, tajarin cook quickly in boiling water so be careful not to overcook them.
- 300 g (about 2 1/3 cups) "00" flour
- 2 large eggs
- 6 large egg yolks
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- Semolina for dusting
- Porcini Mushroom Ragu, for serving
- Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, for serving
Mound the flour on a clean work surface and make a wide well in the center. Crack the eggs into the well and add the additional yolks, olive oil, and salt. With a fork, gently whisk together the wet ingredients. Gradually work in flour from around the interior walls of the mound. Continue to incorporate flour until the mixture is thick. Switch to your hands and mix and knead in more flour to form a ball of dough. Keep working in more flour until the dough is firm but still pliable. Use a dough scraper to scrape away any dry bits out of the way. Knead the ball of dough for several more minutes, until it is smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 30 to 60 minutes.
Cut the dough into 4 quarters and rewrap three. Using a pasta machine (or a Kitchen Aid pasta attachment), stretch the first piece of dough to a long, thin sheet (I take mine to #5 setting on my Marcato Atlas hand-crank machine). Set the sheet aside and cover with a towel or plastic wrap. Stretch the remaining pieces of dough to make three more sheets.
Sprinkle the surface of the first dough sheet with a generous coating of semolina. Starting at a short end, fold the sheet up loosely; then, with a sharp knife or the edge of a dough scraper, cut the rolled up sheet into thin strands ~ about 1/8-inch thick. Gently fluff up the cut noodles to unravel them and place them on a rimmed baking sheet lined with a clean, semolina-dusted kitchen towel. Cut the remaining sheets of dough in the same way and arrange them on the baking sheet. If you're not cooking the pasta within a couple of hours, place the baking sheet in the freezer and freeze the tajarin until firm. Then transfer them to a container with a lid or a larger freezer bag and return to the freezer.
To cook the tajarin, bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt generously. Gently drop in the pasta (straight from the freezer if frozen) and cook just until tender ~ no more than 3 or 4 minutes for these thin noodles. Drain and dress with Porcini Mushroom Ragu (see recipe). Serve immediately, with a sprinkle of freshly grated cheese on top.
Ragu doesn't need to contain meat to be rich. This autumnal sauce stars savory porcini mushrooms, which contribute an earthy flavor and meaty texture. I rely on dried porcini, as it is next to impossible to find fresh ones where I live. Be sure to save the soaking liquid after reconstituting the porcini; stirred into the sauce, it adds even more depth.
- 2 ounces dried porcini mushrooms (see NOTE)
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 carrot, finely chopped
- 1 rib celery, finely chopped
- 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 2 (28-ounce) cans best-quality canned whole tomatoes, passed through a tomato mill or squished by hand
- Fine sea salt
Put the porcini in a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then turn off the heat and cover the pot. Let the porcini steep for 20 to 30 minutes. Drain through a fine-mesh sieve lined with cheesecloth, taking care to capture the liquid in a bowl. Reserve the liquid and rough-chop the porcini. Set them aside separately.
Warm the oil in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan set over medium-low heat. Stir in the carrot, celery, onion, garlic, and parsley, and cook until softened, about 7 minutes. Stir in the porcini and a generous splash or two of the reserved liquid. Cook, stirring often, until the liquid is mostly evaporated. Add the tomatoes and raise the heat to medium-high. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover partially, and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, until the sauce is thickened. Season to taste with salt. Stir in another splash or two of the reserved porcini sauce (you may not use it all), and simmer another 20 minutes, until the sauce is thick and fragrant, and the oil pools at the surface.
If not using immediately, let the sauce cool to room temperature. Transfer it to a container with a tight-fitting lid and refrigerate for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 3 months.
You can find packages of dried porcini in Italian grocery stores and gourmet shops, or online at purveyors such as Gustiamo.com.