Monday, July 16, 2007

A bolognese to warm your soul

This past Friday night I served up the bolognese sauce that I had made earlier in the week while Mike was out-of-town on a business trip. This hearty sauce served on top of perfectly cooked mini penne was delicious. Perfect for a chilly San Francisco summer evening. (Where is the sun? Enough of this oppressive fog!) We had a bottle Chianti with our meal and the wine enhanced the flavors of the tomato-based sauce.

I am just crazy for Italian food. The more authentic, the better. So when I received a recipe for bolognese at my bridal shower from an old friend who has spent a lot of time in Italy, I was absolutely thrilled.

The typical bolognese sauce is a thick, full-bodied meat sauce that contains ground beef (and sometimes pork), pancetta, tomatoes, onion, celery, carrots, garlic, and can be enhanced with wine, milk or cream and seasonings.

Here is the special recipe that was shared with me.

Ragu alla Bolognese
Serves 8-10
Cooking time is minimum of 2 1/2 hours
(A special thanks to Judy Alexander for sharing the wonderful recipe with me!)

1 lb ground beef (I like the lean 90/10 kind and buy the best quality.)
1/3 lb prosciutto
1 whole onion, finely diced
2 medium carrots, finely diced
2 stalks celery with leaves, finely diced
1 small can of tomato paste
1, 8oz can beef broth
2, 8oz (or 1, 16oz) can of crushed tomatoes
1 /4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, optional
1/2 tbsp dried oregano
2 tbsp fresh, chopped basil

In an 8 quart stockpot, crumble the ground beef and brown it over medium heat. When it is nearly brown add the chopped prosciutto. Cook until all the meat is browned. Add diced onion, celery, and carrots. Pepper to taste. When the onion is clear, add the tomato paste and beef broth. Reduce heat to medium. Mix until the paste and broth are well-combined in the pot. Allow broth mixture to heat for 2-3 in minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes and oregano and mix until combined. Here is where you can add the Parmesan cheese for a little something special. Turn the stove burner to very low heat and allow the sauce to simmer for at least two hours. A sign that it is cooking well - a layer of bright red oil will rise to the surface. Stir occasionally. After approximately two hours, the sauce should be ready. However, it was advised that the longer the sauce simmers, the better it will taste. I let mine simmer about three hours and took the lid of the pot on and off to keep it from losing too much moisture. Five to ten minutes before serving, add basil. Then, salt to taste. Serve with tagliatelle, penne, or any other pasta with a lot of surface area.

This sauce also freezes and reheats well. Be sure to add the basil and salt when you reheat for optimal flavor.

For dessert I made this lovely Almond Cake. It is a recipe by Giada Laurentis (I love her!) and it was delightful. Light and sweet with a nice texture from the corn meal. In addition to garnishing with powdered sugar, I added some toasted, sliced almonds. In a perfect world, I would have served it with olive oil ice cream.

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