Tuesday, September 20

Ragu alla Bolognese

Bolognese sauce, minus the pasta - you can see what a rich, thick sauce it is after simmering for several hours.  

My better half, God bless him, has been travelling so much lately it must make his head spin.  Well, nothin' says lovin' like something from the oven as the saying goes...  So, tomorrow when he walks in the door he'll be greeted by the smell of hearty bolognese sauce simmering on the stove.  A little tagliatelle (his favorite) to hug all of that meaty goodness, and he'll be in heaven.  I Can't think of anything more comforting than a bowl of silky pasta and sauce (except something chocolate).

I don't know about you, but I tend to cook by "feel" (and taste of course) - you might call it trial and error.  Oh I'll peek at recipes and cherry pick ingredients and techniques that seem most appealing, then add my own touches.  Oh yes, my friends, it does result in the occasional flop, but the majority of the time our tummies are quite happy with the results.  And this is one of those recipes.

Oh, by the way - this is not fast food.  Just sayin' - plan on a good 2 - 3 hours for this sauce to reach perfection.  It doesn't require much attention though after it all comes together, just the occasional stir and  the addition of a little more liquid.

So, here's my version of bolognese...

1 lb. ground pork
1 lb. ground veal
1 cup white wine (use something good you'd actually drink, and substitute red wine if you want a heartier taste)
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 oz. chopped, cubed pancetta (about 1/4" size pieces)
2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 large onion, diced small
1 medium carrot, grated
1 stalk celery, diced small
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
3 cups beef stock
half tube of tomato paste (about 2 heaping tablespoons)
1/8 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 cup half and half

With your hands, crumble and loosen the pork and veal in a large mixing bowl, then toss the meats together to combine.  Add the wine to the meat and work it in with your fingers to moisten all of the meat evenly.  Set aside.

Add  the pancetta and garlic to a food processor.  Process until it forms a paste.  Heat olive oil over medium high heat in a large stockpot.  Add pancetta paste, and stir for about 3 minutes, cooking until the mixture is sizzling, and the fat is released into the pan.

Add the chopped onions to the pan and stir a few minutes until they begin to sweat.  Add the celery, carrots, thyme and grated nutmeg, and continue stirring frequently until the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes.

Push vegetables to the side of the pan, creating an opening in the center.  Dump the meat into the center of the pan and sprinkle it with salt.  Let the meat brown on the bottom a few minutes, then mix the meat in with the vegetables and stir until all of the meat is browned.  The liquid will cover most of the meat.  Continue cooking on high heat, stirring often, until all of the liquid has disappeared, including the liquid on the bottom of the pan.  Meanwhile, heat up the beef stock and keep it warm.

Next, make another opening in the center of the pan and plop the tomato paste in.  Stir it around for a couple of minutes to caramelize the paste, then mix it in with the meat and stir for another 2-3 minutes.

Add 1 cup of hot stock to the pan - just enough to cover the meat.  Reduce the heat to a low simmer (small bubbles breaking over the surface), cover and cook.  Give the meat a stir every 20 minutes, adding about 1/2 cup of stock each time.  Continue cooking over medium low heat, until sauce is thickened and full of flavor - about 2 to 2 1/2 hours.

Turn off heat and add 1/2 & 1/2, stirring well to combine.  Taste and add more salt or pepper if needed.  Serve immediately with pasta or refrigerate for up to 3 days.  It can also be frozen for up to a month.


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