Monday, January 18, 2010
Now That's Italian!
Turns out that I had a spare 6 hours to make a classic Bolognese meat sauce this weekend, or, Ragù as it is called in Bologna. (I worked it in while also taking photos of manicures...) I don't know why I thought this was a great idea. I never even had this classic when I was actually in Bologna, so it's not like I have some weird sensory memory that I'm clinging to. But...I grabbed Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking cookbook and got to work.
Here's the thing about Marcella. She is a marvelous cook and I love her books, but she doesn't always offer suggested times for the various steps in her recipes...well...at least not for this recipe. (I rely on them to help me gauge how long each step should take!) Sooo...when I first glanced at this recipe I figured it would be about 20 minutes of hands on cooking, and then 3 - 4 hours of more or less unattended cooking. Wrong! It was more like TWO HOURS of hands on cooking time. Don't ask me why I thought it would take, like, 8 minutes to simmer (not boil!) an entire cup of wine until it disappeared, but I did. Ummm...it takes, like, 58 minutes to do that! Maybe my heat was too low, but Marcella said medium heat. Maybe my pot was too small so there was less surface area to encourage evaporation. Whatever. I somehow screwed it up and ended up standing at the stove for much longer than I had anticipated.
In the end, the Ragù was delicious (even the next day when I finally took the photos), but I think I would prefer just a little less wine than called for, so I've adjusted the recipe below. It's the most noticeable flavor to me and I would prefer just a bit less of it in the sauce, more in my glass. (Incidentally I used a Gavi, a classic Italian white from Piedmont.) I also substituted fettuccine for the traditional homemade tagliatelle for obvious reasons. (Not obvious? I don't have a pasta maker.) Now I'm ready for a marathon. Of Jersey Shore.
(Adapted from Marcella Hazan)
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup chopped onion
2/3 cup chopped celery
2/3 cup chopped carrot
3/4 pound ground beef chuck (or 1/2 pound ground beef and 1/4 pound ground pork)
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup whole milk
3/4 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 cups whole Italian plum tomatoes, cut up with their juices
1 1/2 pounds pasta (fresh tagliatelle or dried fettuccine or rigatoni)
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1. Place a large, heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the oil, butter, and chopped onion and cook until the onion is translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the chopped celery and carrot and cook, stirring to coat, about 3 minutes.
2. Add the beef, and pork if using, about 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and a pinch of black pepper. Cook, stirring to crumble the meat, until it is cooked through and no longer pink, about 7 minutes.
3. Add the milk and let it simmer gently, stirring frequently, until it has cooked off completely (can be up to 20 minutes).
4. Add the wine and allow it to simmer until it has completely evaporated (can be up to 30 minutes). Add the tomatoes and stir to combine. Bring the sauce to a rolling simmer and then reduce the heat so that it cooks at the lowest simmer possible, with just an occasional bubble breaking the surface. Continue to cook, uncovered, for 3 (or up to 4) hours, stirring occasionally. If the sauce begins to dry out and sticks to the bottom of the pan, add a 1/2 cup water. At the end of the cooking time there should no longer be any excess liquid. Taste and adjust seasoning.
5. Toss the sauce with the cooked drained pasta and serve with Parmesan on the side. Serves 6.