There are lots of ways you can spend your time. Some bad, some good. GWB's plan to spread democracy to Muslim countries: bad use of time. GWB reading a book like Three Cups of Tea so he might actually understand what's going in middle east countries: good use of time. My plan to be a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan: well, maybe not a bad use of time, but at best a questionable use of time. Me spending last Monday making Ragu alla Bolognese for a couple of friends: awesome use of time! So to keep it positive, I'll dwell on that.
Last Monday we made plans to have a couple of friends to dinner, and since indoor slow-cooking season is coming to and end, even here in unusually cold and wet PDX, it was the perfect time to pull out this recipe from my to-do list. First off, when it comes to pasta sauces, for me bolognese comes in second only to my beloved carbonara. You spend all day slowly watching something bubble away in a big pot, and when it comes time to serve it up, everyone can taste the love. Forget the trendy food nerd movement, this is real "slow food". I came across this recipe in the NY Times Magazine a few weeks ago. It's adapted from chef Marco Canora of Manhattan's Hearth, Insieme and Terroir restaurants. It's his versions of his grandmother's bolognese, and it was simply stunning. The article also states: "Another indication of a nearly finished ragù is that the evaporated liquids leave behind a sauce as thick as pudding. 'It’s done when it reaches that sexy consistency,' Canora says." Thick, super intense (it has a lot of tomato paste...don't be afraid, it works....that gets cooked to lengthen and intensify its flavor and texture), this was a huge hit, and incredibly easy to put together. All it takes is time, and on a day off with friends on the way for dinner, what could be a better way to make use of it?
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adapted from Insieme in Manhattan
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 ½ cups finely chopped onions
¾ cup finely chopped celery
¾ cup finely chopped carrots
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
1 pound ground beef
1/3 pound pancetta, finely chopped
1 1/3 cups tomato paste
1 ½ cups whole milk
2 cups red wine
2 2/3 cups whole canned tomatoes, drained of juices and torn
4 cups meat stock
Penne or pappardelle, cooked al dente
1. Combine the butter and olive oil in a large, heavy saucepan set over medium heat. When hot, add the onions, celery and carrots, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables start to brighten in color, about 20 minutes.
2. Add the garlic, and just before it starts to brown, add the beef and pancetta. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is thoroughly browned, about 25 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 5 minutes. Add the milk and cook at a lively simmer until the milk is absorbed, 10 to 15 minutes. Add the wine and simmer until the pan is almost dry. Stir in the tomatoes and the stock, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook for 3 hours (I let mine go for 3-1/2 hours), stirring occasionally. Skim the fat off the surface as it cooks. Toss with al dente penne or pappardelle and serve with grated Parmesan.
The sauce, after about 90 minutes...looking good!