Cooking Italy~Bolognese Sauce

26 09 2009

CI-Bolognese-pasta

This episode of Cooking Italy has us creating Marcella Hazan’s Classic Bolognese Sauce.  I have to admit, I have never, ever tasted anything quite like this in my life. I am totally, 100% amazed.  I have no idea quite how I measure up yet, but I have come upon a potential solution to that.  One of the administrators in my school district is Italian…and his mama makes the best cookies!  The pastas never got this far. *Ü*  Having worked for him, I know he can always be prevailed upon to take a taste-test.  I just need to make sure he’s on campus and drop off a serving for him.  He’ll critique for me.  If he remembers to eat it! LOL!  That really makes me feel a little better…it’s one thing for us to be impressed, but even though it’s good, what if it isn’t “right?”  It kind of defeats half of the purpose!  Enough rambling…on to the Bolognese!!

I made a double batch…and the mise en place shots are on the actual camera, and I’m trying to figure out how to get them transferred.  I chopped my vegetables (onion, celery and carrot ) to about 3/8 inch and prepared a simple Italian “soffritto” with butter and olive oil.  This recipe is much like French cuisine in that it is the long, slow cooking with ingredients added one after the other that creates the individual layers of flavor and develop the complexity of the sauce.  This isn’t a 30 minute meal…this one is easily 6 to 12 hours.  Next came the meat.  I used beef, the favored cut is chuck.  There needs to be some fat for flavor and to help the sauce stay liquid in its final stage.  Pork may be used, but only replacing 1/3 of the meat according to Hazan.

The ground meat is cooked until there is no redness left.  Making a double batch, I ended up using beef from 2 sources. I found freshly ground beef to be much easier to break up than a cyovac’d packed a picked up from Trader Joe’s which was clearly a superior product.  Sometimes you just can’t win for losing! LOL!  Next comes the step that signifies this is a Bolognese dish…we’re going to simmer the meat in milk until the milk has completely evaporated.  Now we add nutmeg… I didn’t ask why. But I did pull out both kinds of nutmeg and did a Nutmeg Grate-Off….you’ll have to read that post and see the pictures…that are also stuck on the camera….arrrrgh!  I may have to make this sauce again soon just to get these pictures again before I go bonkers!!

To our seasoned meat, we now add white wine, and simmer, simmer, simmer until all the liquid is gone.  Are you seeing where all the time goes yet?  There’s easily an hour to 2 hours of cooking time, especially if you can let it take its time to reduce.  I used a Mexican Comal on my gas burner, and then a multi-layered stainless steel cookware pot on top of that to diffuse the heat and maintain a very low, even heat.  After this mixture simmers dry, it’s time to add tomatoes, season a bit and simmer at least 3 hours, stirring occasionally.

There are a couple of wonderful aspects of this you don’t think of initially…your house is going to smell wonderful throughout the cooking process…every layer has its own aroma, and they’re all delightful. This simmers, and doesn’t require constant attention, just occasional attention.  Set a timer for 15-20 minute intervals and check it, give it a stir, and keep on doing whatever. The early simmer stages can stretch a bit longer.  Once this is made, you have the sauce for a lot of fabulous recipes! I found this used with crespelles and lasagne in particular.  You can bet I’ll be trying the crespelle recipe!  And I’m dying to make the lasagne!!  With freshly made pasta sheets! Oh yeah!! But…don’t worry about your pasta until your sauce has simmered at least 3 hours, and is in it’s drying out stage.

CI-pasta-sheet-II

We were totally amazed at how incredibly thin and light the pasta came out this time.  I’m not sure what I did differently. Maybe just a tad bit more confidence, less trepidation, and more purpose.  I don’t know.  I figured 1/2 cup flour to 1 of my free range hen eggs, which aren’t quite as big as large eggs, more to the medium size.  That seems to be about the right proportions.  This is how the pasta sheets looked after running through the 7th setting.  I can’t wait to make lasagne with these sheets!!  We had the pasta drying rack put together, but the dowels are too skinny for my liking. I used a tube clothes hanger instead. But now…I’ve got a pasta rack in my head… “Honey…do you think….” *giggle*  I don’t know how Italians learn how to measure pasta cuts by the eye, but I’d love a lesson!! In the meanwhile…I’m thinking about creating a template.  I’ll let you know how that goes.  LOL!  Yes, my dear Heritage Ladies…you may be entertained!  This batch of pasta, being a little thinner, cooked so fast!!  It was on the surface of the water in mere seconds, and I tasted it, but got a floury taste, so back in.  I think I boiled it about 90-120 seconds all told, then a quick drain and into the skillet to toss with butter and sauce.

CI-Bolognese-pasta-close

Tasting Notes:  This is simply not like anything I’ve ever, ever had before.  I know I haven’t been exposed to any authentic Italian, probably not in my life.  Well…when I was, I wasn’t looking at Bolognese sauce. The sauce is a complex blend of sweet, savory, creamy, grainy flavors and textures…with hints of flavors that are virtually impossible to single out.  You can see bits and pieces that give away the ingredients, but the liquid ingredients leave you guessing.  As I said, I don’t know if I’ve made this properly, but I’m going to find out if it passed the Italian test. LOL!  We certainly enjoyed it nonetheless!  I have 2 cups put away to make lasagne with…regardless of the results of the Italian taste test!

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5 responses

20 10 2009
Kayte

We loved this recipe, although I did not make my own pasta. Someday I will get there, this might not be too soon, however. The sauce was wonderful and the taste out of this world. I can’t wait to make this again in the winter when the warmth of the stove will be lovely. Your photos compliment everything so nicely.

28 09 2009
Ivonne

Looks incredible! Love the photo with the pasta over the book. And the sauce looks divine!

27 09 2009
Arlene

Marcella Hazan’s Bolognese is my bell-weather Bolognese sauce. I’ve been making it for many years. The only thing that has come close to satisfying is a vegetable Bolognese I tried recently. It is almost, but not quite, as good. Your photos are amazing.

27 09 2009
junglefrog

That looks gorgeous! I still have to tackle the home made pasta part, but yours looks fantastic.

26 09 2009
Angela@spinachtiger

You are just the best. That pasta over the book is crazy cool genius. I can see why you both ate it all up. I told you to make a double…:)

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