The Best Bolognese

The story:

For our second trip to Italy, we decided to go to city where the Italians go to eat. Bologna. Italians call this city La Dotta, La Grassa, La Rossa.

La Dotta  – “The Learned” (home to the oldest university in the Western World – University of Bologna, or as the locals call it, UniBo. If you were a student in the late 15th century, you could’ve sat next to Copernicus in Astronomy 101.

La Grassa – “The Fat” (The food here is nothing short of amazing. The food from this region of Italy – Emilia Romagna,is iconic Italian- parmesean, tortellini, balsamic vinegar, bolognese.

La Rossa – “The Red” (The abundance of brick buildings).

It was in a little alley in Bologna that I had the best bolognese of my life.

Tagliatelle al Rag, Serghei, Bologna

Tagliatelle al Rag, Serghei, Bologna (It’s just called Ragu in Bologna)

trattatoria serghei

Up to this point, most meat sauces I had eaten looked something like this:

Sicilia-Meat-Sauce

(Ground beef + jarred marinara + seasonings) over pasta

Don’t get me wrong, this is yummy, delicious and an incredible weeknight meal. However this is NOT bolognese. Once I tasted it I closed my eyes and let out a deep sigh. A sigh so deep it was like my body said “this pasta is so good, it must be my last meal. I am ready to meet Jesus.” This dish ruined me for many many moons because I didn’t know how to recreate this at home. That is until I found a Bon Appétit recipe that comes pretty darn close.

Good for when:

  • You find yourself having to cook for Italian Italians
  • You wonder what you should do for a couple hours before dinner
  • You have leftover pancetta

Not ideal if:

  • You are hangry
  • You are avoiding pork, dairy or wheat

The Method:

Copied from this recipe

We first tried to do the lasagna but found that we didn’t care for the béchamel and just wanted to eat the meat sauce by itself. From then on we only used the sauce and would pair it with a flat noodle to maximize flavor absorption.

Bolognese Sauce 

  • 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled, coarsely chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound ground beef chuck
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 4 oz. pancetta (Italian bacon), finely chopped
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup dry white wine (I like a Pinot Grigio for this. I wish I could tell you that broth is a decent substitute… but that would be disingenuous and downright mean to sabotage your bolognese.)
  • 1 cup whole milk (Milk is really important! Don’t skip!)
  • 1 14.5-oz. can crushed tomatoes (I have used non San Marzano tomatoes and it did not turn out so well. Definitely splurge and get the San Marzanos)
  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth, divided (We almost always use store bought stock.)

  • Pulse onion, carrot, and celery in a food processor until finely chopped. (Yes, definitely use a food processor)
  • Heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add beef, pork, pancetta, and vegetables; cook, breaking up meat with a spoon, until moisture is almost completely evaporated and meat is well browned, 25–30 minutes; season with salt and pepper.
  • Add wine to pot and bring to a boil, scraping up browned bits from bottom of pot, about 2 minutes. Add milk; bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until moisture is almost completely evaporated, 8–10 minutes. Add tomatoes and 2 cups broth; bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, adding water by ½-cupfuls if sauce looks dry, until flavors meld and sauce thickens, 2½–3 hours.
  • Let sauce cool, then cover and chill at least 12 hours or up to 2 days. (Letting the sauce sit will give it a deeper, richer flavor.)

Cooking life lesson I’m still learning … when the ingredients are simple and few… you have to get the best because there’s not much for them to hide behind. Imagine dancing in a room of 10 people vs. 1000. If you are in the former, you better be incredible.

Leave a comment if you give this recipe a try! I would love to hear what you think! If you are too lazy to make this but want to try it, leave a comment too 🙂 I’ll have you over for some ragu!

 

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Mooooo (a reprise)

You may know that Tim and I bought a quarter cow from a ranch last year. I had bought a deep freezer with the intent of hoarding breastmilk for Wes for when I returned to work. Well since I decided to take some time off from teaching,  we thought there’s no better way to make use of our freezer than to fill it to the brim with BEEF.

For months we worked through our cow. A pot roast here, some burgers there, some more steaks here… I dreaded each meal with our cow. It tasted unlike anything I’ve ever had before. The flavor was so strong, gamey and lean I started a conspiracy theory that we had bought buffalo and this was all one big labeling mishap! I didn’t want to hurt Tim’s feelings so I didn’t’ make a big deal out of it (at least I thought I didn’t), but I really hated the taste of the cow. Steak nights were the worst because there was no place to hide and there was just so much to eat. I remember holding my breath to swallow each bite hoping I had made a dent in the steak.

Several months later, we get an email from the ranch asking how our experience was with our cow because the other person that shared the cow with us complained that their cow tasted really strong too! YASSSSS. I WAS RIGHT. IT WAS WEIRD!!!  I’ve never felt such validation in my life! The ranch said please don’t eat anymore of the weird cow, bring it back! We’ll give you another quarter! So here we are again. With our freezer filled to the brim with another quarter cow!

Next time I will share my favorite ground beef recipe! Stay tuned.

(Sorry to all of our friends who may have been fed said weird cow. Thanks for grinning and politely ingesting the weird cow. We will make it up to you with normal cow.)

The best way to cut a watermelon

A couple of weeks ago, Tim and I hosted some friends for brunch and I wanted to make a watermelon salad with mint (which is fabulous by the way if you want to make an easy side that isn’t heavy, but don’t feel like really eating rabbit food). I always wanted to cut melons in a perfect cube but never figured out how to not end up with with lots of triangles with round bottoms. I chalked it up as a guarded culinary school secret (not unlike the many secrets that inhabit the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizzardry).

Thank God for YouTube because seeing this video  changed my watermelon cutting life. I wanted to call every one of my friends and ask them if they knew about this! If you knew about this and kept it to yourself this whole time, shame on you. Tell someone. Tell anyone. You will forever change their life.

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First you must cut off the ends and using a big sharp knife, “peel” the watermelon.

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I don’t know why this picture seems inappropriate to me, but here it is, a naked watermelon! Notice how very little red flesh ended up on the rind.

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This is the best part. Start making graph paper with your watermelon.

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Perfectly cubed watermelon!

I ended up with too much watermelon and not enough tupperware space so I dumped it in a pitcher and added water.

I ended up with too much watermelon and not enough tupperware space so I dumped it in a pitcher and added water.

Channeling my inner Ina Garten: Part 1 – The Shopping

I love Ina Garten! She is an amazing cook and I love her simple, understated and elegant style. (Oh to be from the Hamptons!) I love that on the show, she’s always cooking for her husband Jeffrey. She always says things like “Jeffrey just LOVES these marcona almonds.” or “I think Jeffrey will really enjoy this roasted lemon chicken” or “I just can’t wait until Jeffrey comes home and tries chocolate pudding!” I think that is so sweet and honestly, a lot of the reason why I enjoy cooking is because I am married to a guy that appreciates my cooking so much regardless of what I put in front of him.

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Usually Mondays I spend the morning meal-planning by looking through my favorite cookbooks, blogs and magazines and planning out a menu for the week. Here are a few of my recent favorites:

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And my favorite cooking blogs:

  • The Pioneer Woman http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/ (I just love her personality and how yummy her food is)
  • Nom Nom Paleo http://nomnompaleo.com/ (This woman made me think that maybe, just maybe I can eat Paleo. Many paleo blogs had recipes that seriously looked GROSS. Sometimes it seemed like eating like a caveman necessitates that you have a palate like a caveman. I like that she is a MAJOR foodie. I think that gives her recipes a lot of credibility.

After I am sufficiently starving from looking at food for an hour, I grab my bags and do something that I swear only a person who has nothing to do every day can do: I hit up the San Antonio and El Camino corner go to four grocery stores. Here’s the order I hit them up in:

  1. The Milk Pail (Loves: Cheese, herb bundles for $1, produce on the CHEAP; Gripes: This can’t be your one-stop-shop because the meat section is pitiful, the produce has usually started their sunset season in life and must be consumed PRONTO)
  2. Trader Joe’s (Loves: Frozen fruit selection (I dont’ know where else I can get frozen pineapples for under $2 and frozen mangos for under $3), hummus, bananas, emergency entertaining foods, milk, butter, cheese, pantry staples: chicken broth, prewashed and bagged kale/spinach, spaghetti sauce, sparkling water, Orangina; Gripes: Though better than the Milk Pail, the meat selection leaves me wanting, produce is hit/miss, EVERYTHING is packaged (lots of waste)
  3. Whole Foods (Loves: The MEAT, coconut water selection, hot food bar, yogurt selection, one-stop-shopness of it, variety of produce; Gripes: $$$$$$$)
  4. Sprouts (Loves: the bulk bins!!!, nuts, consistently good and cheap produce, bulk spices; Gripes: the meat)
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This was my Milk Pail loot from a couple weeks ago. All of this came out to $7.

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But I quickly undid the awesomeness of the Milk Pail by hopping to Whole Foods. This loot cost me $51.42. #stupidmeat

Up next: my favorite recipes of the summer!