Chefs' Recipes

Paola Toppi's pasta with ragù

Where simplicity and flavour meet.

By Paola Toppi
  • 30 mins preparation
  • 1 hr 20 mins marinating (plus resting)
  • Serves 6 - 8
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When I was very young, my parents would invite extended family and friends over for lunch on Sundays. These lunches would include a combination of homemade pastas, copious amounts of salads and a meat course with lots of vegetables. I will never forget kneading the pasta by hand, then rolling it over and over again to form beautiful tagliatelle, fettuccine and, of course, ravioli and tortellini.
We were time-poor, so everything we did was simple yet delicious: true Italian food is characterised by simplicity and flavour. We would start the meal with salads – radicchio and fennel, or witlof with apple, pear and Gorgonzola were favourites – and prosciutto sliced so thinly it would melt in your mouth. Sliced tomatoes with olives and spring onion, drizzled with the sweetest olive oil, fresh oregano and sea salt was another regular. But the dish that most often springs to mind is the simplest of homemade tagliatelle with a fresh tomato sauce. Stracciatella cheese or mozzarella could then be folded through to create a sublime combination of rich tomato and strings of melted cheese, causing havoc when trying to twirl it on your fork. This version can be made a day ahead if you like. It's a versatile recipe where you can substitute any meat, chicken or game, and it works well with either dry or fresh pasta.
Our family lunches would inevitably run into dinner, as we would start at about 2pm and finish at 10pm. Sweets were not really served, but rather cheese, fruit and nuts with a digestivo. Sharing and passing around various dishes while speaking loudly over each other is what I remember most fondly. All the chefs or cooks in my family were self-taught, passed down from each generation to the next willing mad person.


  • 50 ml extra-virgin olive oil
  • 50 gm butter
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 celery heart, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • Pinch of dried chilli flakes (optional)
  • 500 gm coarsely minced or finely chopped combined pork and veal
  • 100 ml white wine
  • 50 ml Madeira
  • 500 ml (2 cups) tomato passata
  • 12 basil leaves
  • Parmesan, to serve
Pasta dough
  • 250 gm (1⅔ cups) "00" flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil


  • 1
    For pasta dough, place flour on a work surface. Make a well in the centre and add eggs, egg yolks, oil and 1 tsp salt flakes. Combine and knead to a smooth dough (8-10 minutes; alternatively, process in a mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment.) Cover and set aside to rest for 20 minutes.
  • 2
    Divide dough into 4 pieces. Working with one piece at a time (cover remaining dough with plastic wrap to stop it drying out), roll through a pasta machine, starting at the widest setting, then reducing settings notch by notch until pasta is 2.5-3mm thick. Set sheets aside on a lightly floured tray for 10 minutes, then cut into 3cm-wide pieces. Hang and dry pasta until required.
  • 3
    Heat oil and butter in a wide saucepan over low heat. Add vegetables, garlic and chilli and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender but not browned (6-8 minutes). Increase heat to medium, add meat and cook, stirring continuously, until liquid evaporates (6-8 minutes). Add wine and Madeira and cook, stirring occasionally, until alcohol evaporates (4 minutes). Season to taste and add tomato passata, basil and 250ml water. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until meat is tender (1 hour).
  • 4
    Add pasta to a large saucepan of boiling salted water and cook until al dente (2-3 minutes). Remove with tongs or drain in a sieve, then add to ragù and toss to combine. Serve topped with fresh finely grated parmesan.