16 February 2009

Bolognese Meat Sauce

Ragù alla Bolognese
Bolognese (with title)
It wasn't long ago that I showed you guys a Cathy comic of the title character gorging on all sorts of comfort food during the holiday season-- and that started with Thanksgiving. President's Day (my first ever, not that anything really happened today) is nearly over, and yet as Phil the groundhog said that there'd be six more weeks of winter, the waist on my pajamas is threatening a coup. Well, not really, and though I feel a little, er, cuddlier than normal, this very kind scale next to me says I'm fine. The problem is every time I fix a meal for myself, it turns out to be a million calories, because at freezing temperatures you feel like rewarding yourself with really tasty food.

Thank goodness that I'm not licensed to drive in this country and I love walking (even if it is at dermis-fracturing temperatures). So to get to the local Path-Mark, I have to walk 1.9 miles at least. That's most of the afternoon getting there and back (don't worry, there's a produce market 6 minutes away by foot). Part of me is thinking that as long as the produce market is there, I should really stay away from meat and dairy if I'm not going to go to the gym like I did back at home. The part of me controlling my hands made deelicious burgers and spag bol.
Bolognese close-up
The thing about diets is, as Lori said, it's not quite so easy when you're a food blogger. And the whole point of starting this blog is to cook food I loved, not food that needs cheerleaders to get enthusiasm. And though Syrie did a fantastic job with her detox diet, I wonder if I will ever be successful at such a goal and whether I will just drop off the face of the blogosphere if I do. A lovely friend of mine said that people are more forgiving of doughiness than I believe, so that's encouraging, but we'll see what happens when the ice thaws.

But if my dough is a natural result of me avoiding menus consisting of these conceptualized in part by a woman who can slice deli meats with her shoulder blades, then I can rest easily. (Seriously, the way she is now, the breast-unbinding scene of Shakespeare in Love would have ended with Will jumping out the window or feigning an emergency phone call.)

What I have here is a hearty, earthy bolognese meat sauce from My Love for Naples, a book I recently reviewed on The Gastronomer's Bookshelf. It is quite easy to make-- the only hard part was processing the vegetables, as I had no food processor. So I grated a carrot. With my new microplane. Not doing that again. It's my first time to make it and the magic that transformed a giant carrot pancake to a rich, thick, red sauce still astounds me. There are a zillion versions of Bolognese meat sauce, and you can get a few more good ones from Tim's site, or this well-reviewed one from Saveur (they have a few more, which you can search).

Bolognese Meat Sauce (adapted from My Love for Naples by Anna Teresa Callen)

  • 100g (3.5oz or 1 1/4 inch thick slice) prosciutto

  • 1 sprig Italian parsley

  • 1 onion, quartered

  • 1 celery stalk, quartered

  • 1 carrot, quartered

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 28g (2 tablespoons) unsalted butter

  • 150g (1/3 pound) each: ground beef, ground veal, and ground pork

  • 3/4 teaspoon chopped fresh sage

  • salt to taste

  • freshly ground pepper to taste

  • 120g (1/2 cup) dry wine, preferably red

  • 42g (3 tablespoons) tomato paste

  • 500g (2 cups) chicken broth, homemade or a good quality canned broth, preferably low-sodium

In a food processor, combine the prosciutto, parsley, onion, celery, and carrot. Process to a fine consistency (I grated the carrot and celery, and minced the onion and prosciutto). In a saucepan, heat the olive oil and butter. Add the prosciutto-vegetable mixture and cook stirring until lightly browned (I took 15 minutes). Add the meat and sage, and cook stirring frequently until brown. Season with pepper and a dash of salt. Add the wine and let evaporate. Blend the tomato paste into the chicken broth and stir it into the pan. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for an hour. Check the seasoning again, adding salt or pepper if necessary, and stir it in for a minute or so, then remove from the heat.

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