Thursday, April 03, 2008

Using my time wisely

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?
*** *** ***
Beef Bolognese
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
Grated Parmesan.

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.
Serves 6.
The sauce, after about 90 minutes...looking good!


Anonymous said...


This is Dave Miller at Think Out Loud. (We talked before our Meat show back in February.)

In case you haven't tried it yet, I thought you might be interested in this Gourmet Mag. recipe for pasta with anchovy, bread crumbs, and dill. I've made it twice, and am in love:


Peas&Carrots said...

Give this a try. This recipe is similar to one from The Food of Italy, WhiteCap Books. GREAT BOOK! The difference is the addition of chicken livers (4 oz). The recipe calls to trim and finely chop. Trust me, you won't even know they are there and the richness it adds to the sauce is unbelievable. I don't eat chicken livers but would not dream of omitting this from the list of ingredients. Another fabulous recipe from this book is the Cannnelloni. A must try!

Anonymous said...

This comment is for the bolognese recipe. According to Marcella Hazan, a renowned Italian cookbook writer, you should add the milk and let it reduce down before adding in the tomatoes. The purpose of adding the milk is to protect it from the acidic bite of the wine and tomatoes. He recipe for Bolognese Meat Sauce on page 203 of "Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking" states: "Add salt immediately when sautéing the meat to extract it's juices for the subsequent benefit of the sauce. Cook the meat in milk before adding wine and tomatoes to protect it from the acidic bite of the latter.". In my humble opinion, the best recipe for bolognese meat sauce comes from the cookbook entitled, "The New Basics" by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins, authors of the Silver Palate Cookbook. I'm just sayin'....