Bringing Italy Home

Unfortunately, none of us will be visiting Italy this year.  Normally when harvest ends, Sharon and I will head to some region of Italy to refresh, eat some great food and learn some new tricks for the kitchen.   This year due to COVID we have had to bring Italy to our home instead, and no other sauce so represents Northern Italy as Bolognese.

Bolognese has just a few extras that support the key ingredients of pork and beef.  The key to making a really good Bolognese to start with pork and beef that has a coarse grind. I like to use a ⅜ inch plate when I grind.  The other key ingredient is patience; you do not want to rush it.  Pick a Sunday, a rainy or snowy day, and enjoy the perfume of the slowly simmering sauce.

As long as you are spending the time, make lots of sauce!  It’s just as easy to make 6 quarts as it is one, and bolognese freezes well.  In addition to pasta sauce, this basic bolognese can then be used to make epic lasagna or cannelloni.  As always, what follows is a guideline. Mix it up as you see fit.

Ingredients – 6 to 8 servings

1 lb. Coarse ground beef Chuck

1 lb. Coarse ground Pork Shoulder 

Salt

2 TBSP bacon fat or olive oil

¼ stick butter

1 Onion

1 Carrot

2 TBSP Tomato paste

1 cup White wine

3 cups Chicken Stock

1 Bay Leaf

Pinch of Nutmeg

2 cups whole milk

1 lb Good quality pasta, either Linguini, Fettuccine or Pappardelle (we like the Rusticella d’ Abruzzo brand, and for this dish we specifically like their egg fettuccine)

Freshly grated Reggiano Parmesan (about ½ cup), plus more for serving

Process

  1. Add ground beef and pork, a large pinch of salt and a few grindings of pepper to a large pot. If you need a little fat to get it going, add some bacon fat.  Crumble the meat with a fork, stir well, and cook over high heat until the beef has lost its raw, red color.  It can brown slightly but not too much.  Use some wine to deglaze the pan.  Remove from the pan.
  2. Put remaining bacon fat, butter, chopped onion, and carrot in the pot, and turn the heat to medium. Cook and stir the onion until it has become translucent and slightly caramelized.  Add balance of wine to deglaze the pan.
  3. Add back in the meat, chicken stock and bay leaf and simmer for an hour or so until meat is tender.
  4. Add milk in ½ cup increments, letting it simmer gently while stirring frequently, Add a tiny grating — about 1/8 teaspoon — of nutmeg, and stir.
  5. Turn the heat down so that the sauce is barely simmering. Cook, uncovered, for 2 hours or more, stirring from time to time. While the sauce is cooking,it is likely to start to dry out. add 1/2 cup of water whenever necessary. The fat will separate to the top and the sauce should be thick when ready.
  6. Cook the pasta.  Toss with the sauce (not too much), adding a little butter to gild the lily, and serve with freshly grated Parmesan.
  7. Pour your self a glass of Terraces Chardonnay, take a bite, close your eyes, and yes you can be in Italy!