For the last several months we’ve been celebrating occasions with friends and family via zoom, and while, not ideal- it can still be a lot of fun! We’ve even had multiple dinner parties where each person (or couple) comes up with a recipe and ‘teaches’ the others how to make it!
We get that not everyone LOVES Valentines Day, but think of it as an opportunity to show those you love how much they mean to you! Make this meal for your Galantine, Little Valentines or your spouse! Plus, nothing says “self love” like a big ol bowl of pasta, amirite?
The star of this recipe is really the Beet + Paprika Red colored Pappardelle made by a creative and amazingly talented Gal in our hometown of Edmonton!
We stumbled across Gianna’s incredibly creative and colorful pasta offerings at Bell’uovo a few months back and have been hooked ever since!!! Here is a little bit about this talented and lovely Italian Pastaia (a woman who makes pasta).
My name is Gianna Vacirca, I’m from Edmonton, Alberta Canada. Until recently I was working full time as a professional theatre actor and only made pasta for fun and for friends.
I’ve had the great pleasure of working on stages across Canada for the past 10 years. I’ve completed two national tours of the award-winning show BEARS and, before the pandemic, I was set to star in Hannah Moscovitch’s newest play Sexual Misconduct of the Middle Classes and Erin Shields’ new adaptation of Jane Eyre, two hugely influential female Canadian playwrights. It was going to be a big step for me career wise.
In March 2020, the Canadian entertainment industry completely shut down and as a suddenly unemployed theatre artist I had a lot of time on my hands. I reconnected with my great aunt Gianna in Milan (who I am named after) & I started making pasta everyday to distract myself from the worry I felt for her and the rest of my family in Italy. I made so much pasta that I needed a way to give it away so I launched a fundraiser for WINhouse (a charity for women fleeing domestic violence). My community took up the call and before I knew it we raised $1000 in pasta purchases in just three days. For a community completely out of work, this was totally unexpected.
It might have helped that my pasta is different than most. It is ridiculously colourful. Pasta experimentation really hit its stride in April, during the first lockdown… and from that intense kitchen laboratory time came dough made from parsley, beets, harissa, activated charcoal, spirulina, butterfly pea flowers, kale, paprika, cocoa, coffee, peas into all the colours of the rainbow. Many folks are surprised to hear that I don’t use food colouring. All my colours are made from groceries from your local produce aisle or health foods shop.
These days I’m making more pasta than ever and experimenting with new shapes and colours in my little kitchen in downtown Edmonton. I take custom pasta orders now for ‘dinner parties’, sell colourful dough for folks to experiment with at home, and I’ve launched a website where people can sign up to receive my seasonal Pasta Lists. These Pasta Lists are my invention: they are pasta periodicals full of history and stories with a menu attached so you can eat the shapes you learn about. The Pasta Lists are my way of selling the big batches of pasta I make while I learn and research new shapes.
I also have a pasta blog on Instagram. Here, I share the history of different pasta shapes and names, the geographical and etymological origin stories of each noodle, and when possible, the political and cultural contexts that breathed life into one of the world’s most prolific foods. It also serves as an art gallery, I sell photographs of my colourful creations too. I like looking at the world through the eyes of pasta and sharing the stories I come upon and thoughts that arise in me as I create it.
I really didn’t expect such a positive response. My pasta lists consistently sell out, I am constantly responding to questions and comments on my blog, and my customer base is expanding rapidly. Once things become more stable, I have dreams of opening a shop front where I can make and sell pasta as well as teach classes, host events, and sell pasta making equipment.
Unfortunately, I’m no closer to returning to the stage but I am very lucky to have bell’uovo (my ‘beautiful egg’) to keep me company. My great aunt Gianna helped me come up with the name and every time I say it I feel just a little bit closer to her. She passed away in September in Milan – in a lot of ways, I owe this cultural and entrepreneurial incubation to her.
Now for the Ragu Recipe you’ve all been waiting for!!
Here’s What You Need:
- 2 1/2 pounds boneless beef chuck roast, excess fat trimmed and cut into 2-inch chunks
- Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 white onion, diced
- 3-4 Stalks celery, diced
- 2-3 carrots, diced
- 1/4 cup tomato paste
- 1/2 cup dry red wine ( I look for a Sangiovese or Chianti that is approx $15)
- 1/2 cup Beef Stock
- 1 (28-ounce) can San Marzano Tomatoes (or whatever is available at your grocer)
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- Fresh Chopped basil to taste
- Fresh thyme to taste
- Pinch of ground cinnamon
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
- Start with your sauté setting on your Instant Pot. Add in Olive Oil, Garlic, Minced onion, celery and carrot until onions are translucent and rest of vegetables are soft.
- Add everything else to the pot.
- Set the Instant Pot to the “meat/stew mode” (On most pots this means high pressure for 35-45 mins)
- Make sure to steam valve is closed and set to “natural release” until the float valve is all the way down.
- Once cycle is complete and all pressure is released, open the lid and remove the beef to shred.
- Return the braised meat back to the Instant Pot, and set it on sauté mode one last time. Allow to cook until sauce thickens.
- Cook Pappardelle to Instructions. Serve a generous amount of Ragu over top of Pasta, garnish with Shredded Parmesano and fresh basil or parsley.
- Buon appetito!
Ready to Start The Pressure Cooker!