Sunday, February 4, 2007

Bolognese Meat Sauce

This might not be the most beautiful meat sauce you ever saw, but to me it certainly is the most delicious.

Even though the instructions look a little intimidating because it cooks for a long time, this recipe is easy, but it is important that you follow the directions exactly. Just be patient. This also makes delicious filling for cannelloni, but that's another story.

Bolognese Meat Sauce
Adapted from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan

Serves 4

1 tablespoon light vegetable oil
3 tablespoons butter, plus 1 tablespoon for tossing the pasta
½ cup chopped onion
⅔ cup chopped celery
⅔ cup chopped carrot
¾ pound ground beef chuck
Black pepper, ground fresh from the mill
1 cup whole milk
Whole nutmeg
1 cup dry white wine (what you would like to drink with it)
1½ cups canned plum tomatoes, cut up with their juice
1 pounds pasta (spaghetti, pappardelle, rigatoni, and mezzi rigatoni are good)
Freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese at the table

Put the oil, butter, and chopped onion in a pan (I use a 3-quart saucier), and turn the heat to medium. Cook until the onion is translucent, then add the chopped celery and carrots. Cook, stirring the vegetables, for about 2 minutes.

Add the ground beef, a large pinch of salt, and a few grindings of pepper. Break up the meat with a wooden spatula, stir well, and cook just until the beef has lost its red color.

Add the milk, and let it simmer gently, stirring frequently, until it has bubbled away completely. Don't rush this step. Add a tiny grating - about ⅛ teaspoon - of nutmeg, and stir. Don't use pre-ground nutmeg here.

Add the wine, and let it simmer until it has evaporated completely. Again, don't rush this step - be patient; it's worth it. Add the tomatoes, and stir thoroughly to coat all the ingredients. When the tomatoes begin to bubble, turn the heat down so that the sauce cooks at a very, very low simmer, with just a random bubble breaking through to the surface now and then. You might have to use a heat diffuser here. Cook, uncovered, for 3 hours, stirring from time to time. If the sauce dries out, add ½ cup of water (not broth) whenever necessary to keep it from sticking. At the end, however, no water at all must be left, and the fat must separate from the sauce. Taste and correct for salt.

Toss with cooked drained pasta, adding the extra tablespoon of butter, and serve with freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese on the side.

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