This one’s for ma famiglia. All our collective years in the kitchen at home and on Bridge Street, and I don’t recall any of us ever making Bolognese. Given our love of all that is delicious–and Italian, for that matter–it’s just not right.
Since I couldn’t learn to make this dish from anyone in the fam, I found someone named Marie of Food Nouveau, Anne Burrell and the fine folks at Fine Cooking to guide me. With their help, I made the richest, meatiest sauce EVAH! I just know you’d love it. If only you were here so we could have Sunday dinner in the kitchen as we did when we were kiddos. I think it would taste much better with a bottle of wine than it did with a glass of milk back in the day on 216. CENT’ANNI!
BOLOGNESE A LA KATTY
as taught to Katty’s Kitchen by Marie of Food Nouveau, Anne Burrell and Fine Cooking
1 large sweet onion, finely diced
2 large carrots, finely diced
2 stalks celery finely diced
4 cloves garlic, pressed
Extra virgin olive oil for the pan
2.5 pounds ground beef/veal/pork combo
1/3 “ thick slice of pancetta, diced (about ¼ pound)
1 cup dry white wine (I used Chardonnay)
1 cup milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 28-oz can whole San Marzano tomatoes (give them a quick chop in the food processor–you will use both the liquid and the tomatoes)
1 cup beef stock
fresh basil (for serving)
Pecorino Romano (for serving)
1 pound hearty pasta–I picked up something fancy from Public Market, of course!
Let’s check out the ingredients first. I don’t think I ever bought this much meatloaf mix in my life–and yes, for those of you who don’t make meatloaf or meatballs this way, it’s a mixture of ground beef, pork and veal that Middletown’s Public Market will gladly grind for you on request. That’s a generous 2.5 pounds, amici! MEATY!
Now about that fancy pasta. You’ll often see Bolognese served over tagliatelle or pappardelle, but I was drawn to these lovely shapes at Public. I researched a bit and was tickled to see mafaldine is also known as reginette (Italian for little queens). Won’t Queenie be honored to know there’s a pasta shape named for her?
All right, let’s get cookin’! Marie’s recipe calls for a fine dice to make a basic soffritto, but I used Anne’s technique. Chop the carrot, celery and onion, run the garlic through a press, add ½ teaspoon salt and don’t worry about your knife skills ’cause a food processor will do the work for you. I had to process in batches using the mini food processor, but no problem. Puree to form a coarse paste like this. Transfer to a separate bowl because you’ll need the food processor one more time to give the San Marzanos a quick buzz.
Coat the bottom of a Dutch oven (or large pot) with olive oil, bring to medium-high heat and add the vegetable puree. Cook until all the water has evaporated and the mixture becomes nice and brown. Stir frequently–this step takes about 5-10 minutes.
Next, add the pancetta and cook 10 minutes, until vegetables are softened and pancetta is golden.
Now it’s time to add the ground meat mix. Season with 2 teaspoons Kosher salt and add to the pot in thirds. Turn up the heat to medium high and brown the meat, cooking another 15 to 20 minutes (helpful to set a timer). Stir and stir and stir and stir so it browns, but doesn’t burn. Marie says you want your meat to caramelize and even become crispy in spots. Lower heat to medium toward the end of your 15-minute sautéing time (check after about 8-9 minutes). Anne Burrell says not to rush, so I took about 5 extra minutes for a total of 20 minutes as Anne suggested!
Add white wine and use it to help you scrape the brown pieces at the bottom of the pot. Stir and stir and stir. By the time you’ve gotten everything incorporated (about 2-3 minutes), the wine will have evaporated. Be careful not to let the meat stick again; lower the heat if necessary.
Add milk, cream, diced tomatoes (with liquid), beef stock, 1 teaspoon Kosher salt and some freshly ground pepper. Bring to a boil, then lower heat so it can simmer, half-covered, for about 4 hours. Here’s where my new friend the pot moose was very helpful.
Give the pot an occasional stir. I cooked this batch in just under 4 hours total. Toward the end of your cooking time, boil the pasta, reserve some of the water when you drain, and toss pasta with a few pats of butter and some of the pasta water, then the Bolognese. I snipped fresh basil over the top and added Pecorino Romano as well.
BUON APPETITO! Enjoy a Sunday dinner with your family! As always, wishing you were here, Nanny and Poppy. Love and miss you, Hopey