Sunday, February 07, 2010

Pasta Rotation - Bolognese

Though it's my wife that the dago Italian, I'm more of a serious pasta eater. I probably eat it, once every three days.

I have about 8 pasta dishes in my weekly rotation. Each Sunday I make a large batch of one that becomes lunch and dinner at various times during the week. Dinner doesn't get much easier than scooping out some pre-made pasta, nuking it, and putting it in front of small children!

This week I am making perhaps my tastiest dish - a bolognese sauce that I serve with (Barilla) farfalle. This is soooo good you could, and we have, serve it on major holidays to your kinfolk (don't ever waste it on inlaws!).

Of course there are numerous ways to make a meat sauce. However, I seldom like the bolognese I'm served at fancy restaurants. *Chefs* usually make it with whole chunks of beef, whereas I prefer *ground meat*.

I found this recipe in a cookbook - one written by the chef at Manhattan's Babbo.

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
4 celery stalks, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
5 GARLIC cloves, sliced
1 pound ground VEAL
1 pound ground PORK
1/4 pound PANCETTA
1 cup MILK
1 cup dry WHITE WINE (I use vermouth)
1 tspn fresh THYME leaves
KOSHER SALT and freshly ground BLACK PEPPER, to taste
1.5 pounds of PASTA
PARMESAN cheese (whatever kind you like)

In a 6- to 8-quart, heavy bottomed saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions, celery, carrots, and garlic and sweat over medium heat until the vegetables are translucent but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add the veal, pork, and pancetta and stir into vegetables. Brown over high heat, stirring to keep the meat from sticking. Add the tomato paste, milk, wine, and thyme, bring just to a boil, then simmer over medium-low heat for 1 to 1.5 hours. Season with salt and pepper.

That's the precise recipe; but you're going to need to hear my suggestions for effective cooking.

This sauce involves a TON of chopping. I would strongly suggest doing ALL the prep before you even start. Sharp, professional knives are a must; and get someone to help if possible.

Be sure to chop the celery and carrots into microscopic pieces.

Buy the pre-sliced pancetta and take care to cut into tiny pieces as well. I don't know, maybe buying a 1/4 lb *chunk* at the deli counter is easier to dice. I just hate to wait there so I go with the pre-packaged stuff that comes in the perfect 4 ounce size.

Even the thyme can be annoying to strip in the middle of cooking. So do that beforehand as well. And use waaaaay more than 1 tspn. Maybe 4-5 times that much. It'll make the aroma of your cooking most pleasing. Plus, if you buy the fresh thyme, AS YOU MUST, what else are you going to do with leftovers?

I don't cook my sauce in a *heavy bottomed pan*. Instead I use a large, deep non-stick frying pan. Either way, when you add the meat, make sure you get all the pancetta directly on the bottom of the pan. In my opinion, pancetta needs a lot more heat to cook properly and release its flavor than the ground pork and veal.

Also, I have a hard time consistently getting ground veal. The ground pork is a must, but instead of veal I have to settle for my local grocery store's *meatloaf* mix. It's one-third a pound each of ground beef, ground pork, and ground veal. So my version usually ends up 2/3 pork, 1/6 beef, and 1/6 veal - and it tastes fine. If you have to use just beef and pork, that should be okay as well. But I'd get the lamb if it's available; a sauce with just pork and lamb is much *lighter* than typical beef-laden bologneses. Lighter means you can eat more of it!

Another *advanced modification* of mine is that I use extra tomato paste, 1.5 cans of it. Though it doesn't say so, make sure you stir the sauce periodically. I use the full 1.5 hours of simmer time.

Add 1.25-1.5 pounds of cooked pasta, stir it all together, and you're done. As I said above, I use Barilla farfalle. The chef at Babbo uses homemade pappardelle.

This dish will actually taste better the *next day*. Make sure you serve with plenty of cheese. My wife and I are partial to pecorino-romano.

See also - Potato Gnocchi.


Taylor Conant said...


You're discovering the science of cooking, independently!

Funny Circus Bears said...

Good looking gobagoo.

Anonymous said...

If you want the veggies that small, why not use a food processor to save time?

Orion said...

Recommendation: Barilla pasta is good; but try DeCecco. It is just about the best box pasta I have had. Very "clean" taste. We have switched over entirely-if we aren't eating that pasta plus stuff-which I know you will scoff at.