Thursday, January 8, 2015

Sorry Vegans, Three Meats are Better than None!

Winter Bolognese Sauce

For Sunday night dinner,  I prepared the perfect cold weather antidote -- a filling 3 meat pasta sauce with healthy sides of winter vegetables...

Succulent winter Bolognese sauce served over large rigatoni pasta. 

Enriching beat greens with stems peeled and sautéd in a garlic shallot base. 

Fresh, thin-sliced fennel relished with apple, blood orange, and pear in a tangy lemon/olive oil/black pepper dressing. 

It's the perfect time of year to share preparations of some warming, wintry meat dishes. In the coming weeks, I will post some of my most popular choices but today we'll start with my favorite - Pasta Bolognese! As the title suggests, Bolognese is named after the beautiful and romantic town in the Emilia Romagna region of Italy -- Bologna.

Not only is the regional capital of Bologna known for its stunning porticos, excellent university, irresistible mortadella, and gorgeous town center, it is also the one of the major food capitals of the world.  My fondest memory of traveling through northern Italy was spending a day eating my way through the markets of Bologna. Foodies delight!

Pasta Bolognese is by no means a simple tomato sauce dish.  Without a doubt, it is a hearty winter meat festa.  And while I wouldn't describe it as complicated to prepare, it does take some time.  On a cold January night, it will warm your house with a succulent aroma -- it's absolutely perfect. 

Here is what you will need:

2 stalks of celery
2 medium size onions
3 cloves of garlic
1/2 cup diced pancetta (optional and technically meat number 4, but what the heck, go for it!)
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 teaspoon of dried hot pepper flakes
1 lb of ground pork
1 lb of ground veal 
1 lb of ground sirloin
1 cup full-bodied red wine
2  cans of San Marzano tomatoes 28 oz
3 tbsp of italian seasoning (if not buying pre-mix and mixing at home, see tips below) 
1 cup of beef broth 
1 tbsp Better Than Bullion (see pict below)
4 dried bay leaves
3 carrots
olive oil
and, Parmesean, of course!!

Sauté pancetta in 2 tablespoon of olive oil for about 2 minutes.  Remove the pancetta and sauté onions, celery and tomato paste until soft, about 5 minutes.

Add hot pepper flakes and the 3 meats (pork, veal and beef). Stir constantly until the meat is browned and separates into small morsels.

Add the red wine and cook for another minute.

TIP #1 Use the same quality wine you will be drinking with your meal. And have a glass for yourself. You deserve it for putting on this show! 

Add the San Marzano tomatoes and the diced garlic. 

TIP #2 Putting the garlic in now gives the enriching garlic flavor without the risk of burning it in the base. 

In a food processor or a Vitamix/blender, puree 2 carrots with a tablespoon of water and add into the mix (this adds a gentle sweetness to the sauce and evens the texture). 

In a small sauce pan, combine the beef stock and the bouillon and cook on low heat until the bouillon dissolves. Add to the meat sauce. 

Season the sauce with Italian seasonings, bay leaves and salt/pepper.  An authentic Bolognese recipe will suggest adding some cream at the end (if using dried pasta), but I think the sauce is rich enough without any further milk fats. 

Cook the sauce for a least 2 hours.  The longer it cooks, the better. The local Bolognese nonne, or grandmothers, say that when the bolognese is ready "it calls you!"  Sweet! 

Tip #3 The pasta for this dish should be cooked al dente (meaning "to the tooth" or firm to bite).  My Venetian friend swears that a firmer, less cooked pasta may have a lower glycemic index and not get digested into sugars as quickly. 

Tip #4 Do not discard any of the oil that forms at the top of the pot while cooking.  This oil holds a considerable amount of flavor and should be used to coat the pasta, after it is strained. It also helps keep flat pastas from clumping. After coating the pasta with this delicious oil,  add the sauce and cook together for about 30 seconds. This binds the flavor,  saturates it evenly and marinates the noodle.   

Sprinkle pasta with parmesan cheese, a few drops of olive oil and some fresh parsley.  If you want to hit it out of the ball park, add some fresh ricotta!  Exquisite!

Honestly, you can't just have one bowl!

Italian Dried Seasoning Mix:

  • If mixing the Italian Seasoning at home, here is what you will need:
Dried Basil
Dried Oregano or Dried Marjoram (these are ostensibly the same herb)
Dried Rosemary
Dried Thyme

Mix equal parts of each dried spice.

This website is fantastic for seasoning tips and DIY spice mixes:

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