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I Want A Nonna January 27, 2010

Posted by Toy Lady in random stuff.
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Don’t get me wrong.  I love my Grandma Nelson – and I miss her and Grandpa very much.  And I have many fond memories of Grandma’s cookies and cinnamon rolls and strawberries and ice cream on birthdays.  Oh, and waffles!  I don’t know how she did it, but if the family was visiting later into the evening, she could whip up a batch of waffles almost out of thin air!  I guess that comes of being a pastor’s wife for 50+ years, huh?

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I’ve gotta admit, though, that while the Swedish side of my heritage revels in the baked goods and breakfast-y stuff that I’ve been so familiar with all of my life, after mashed potatoes, when it comes to just basic peasant food (that doesn’t involved salted or smoked fish!), well, let’s just say that I can’t help feeling a twinge of jealousy toward my Italian friends. They all have little Italian grandmothers who spend their days cooking classic Italian dishes and their evenings feeding their families and friends into the ground!

A couple of weeks ago, I happened upon a discussion over at Chowhound discussing various go-to dishes – and Marcella Hazan‘s spaghetti bolognese was quite popular.  Now I’ve made bolognese, but it’s always been more a quick-and-dirty kind of recipe.  Something that’s tossed together in under an hour on a weeknight.

PhotobucketNot this stuff.  Oh no.

We started with the sauteed onions, then added diced carrots and celery.

Then about a pound or so or freshly ground beef.  (As an aside, I may experiment with blending beef and pork – we loved the combination last summer for burgers. . . )

Just cook the beef until it’s not raw-red anymore – then add a cup of milk.

Seriously!

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I’ve never cooked meat in milk before, but I guess it makes sense.  I mean, the meat sauce for Cincinnati chili is boiled, as is the meat for Rochester’s hot sauce. . . and milk will bring more flavor than just plain old water, right?

So we just simmered on LOW heat until the milk was evaporated.

That’s gonna take a while – we don’t want to boil it, just gently simmer.  For about an hour.

Then, once the milk is gone, there’s a SECRET INGREDIENT!  – a sprinkle of freshly grated nutmeg!  I know, it sounds crazy, doesn’t it?  But really – it’s not even identifiable, just adds an extra layer of flavor.

This sauce is all about layers of flavor.

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Now, your veggies are softened, your meat is cooked, and your nutmeg is added.

NOW it’s time to add the wine!  But rather than the red wine one might expect in a meat sauce, we added a cup of dry white wine.

A bit surprising, certainly, but not unheard-of.  And hey, guess what!  We’re going to very slowly simmer the meat mixture until the wine has evaporated, figure maybe another hour or so.

I hope you don’t have any plans for this afternoon.

This bolognese takes HOURS!

Days even.

Seriously – I started it early Saturday afternoon, then later determined that, if we were to have bolognese for that evening’s dinner, that evening’s dinner would be served sometime after 9:00.

Um, yeah.  That’s not really going to work.  We usually eat by 6 at the latest, and by 9 – well, we’re long gone – it’s past our bedtime.  (Sad, I know, but we’re up early!)  (Plus, we’re not getting any younger, there, sonny.)

PhotobucketSo Peeps thoughtfully ran out and picked up some takeout for dinner, while I fretted and stewed, then basically accepted the fact that I’d not timed this well.  Oh, and reduced the wine in the sauce.

Now it’s time for the next addition.  The original recipe says to use  a cup and a half of diced “imported tomatoes.”  I used a quart of my home-canned whole San Marzano tomatoes.   They may not be imported, but they’re Italian, and still probably fresher-tasting than anything I’m going to buy.  Also, I didn’t bother dicing them – I just dumped them in and kind of mashed them into the pan.

Because guess what?

We’re going to have to cook this (again with the low, gentle simmer) until (you know what I’m going to say, don’t you?) until most of the liquid evaporates – at LEAST 3 more hours!

PhotobucketFortunately, it was right about this time that Peeps got home with dinner, so we left the sauce to its lazy simmering while we ate, and after dinner, everything went into a container in the fridge to be finished up later in the week.

Besides, we all know that sauce, like soup, benefits from an overnight stay in the fridge, right?  Flavors melding and all that?

Yeah, see, there’s a method to my madness poor time management.

So Peeps came home from work and started the tomato-reducing early, and, meanwhile, baked a lovely loaf of rosemary-potato-sourdough bread.

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And finally, it was dinner time.  We popped open one of our last bottles of our favorite Chianti – though we’d used white wine in the sauce, it just seemed to call for red wine with it.

Peeps had brought home some fresh pasta from work (why cook dry spaghetti when we have fresh, only-takes-a-minute linguine?) which was perfect with the sauce.  A grating of fresh romano cheese, and . . .

PhotobucketSo you’re wondering how it was?

We’ll be making this sauce again, and we’ll be making it a lot!  I don’t think I’m going to be able to rest unless we have a supply in the freezer.   Pretty much the only thing that’s stopped me from making this again right away was the time.

I did use more tomatoes than the original called for, and, really, I’m glad.  The sauce was meaty and just saucy enough to not be dry.

Everything blended together beautifully – the pasta and the meat and the vegetables and the tomatoes . . . and a sprinkle of cheese on top – I can’t imagine a more fulfilling meal.  Even the rosemary in the bread complemented the dish – it was probably one of the most satisfying dinners we’ve enjoyed in a long time.

Try it and tell me what you think – printable version is right here.

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Comments

1. origamifreak - January 27, 2010

Does it make you feel any better to know that my nonna died before I was even born? In fact all 4 grandparents did, including the WASPs… LOL

Most Italian cooking I know how to do is self-taught. 🙂

Of COURSE that wouldn’t make me feel better! Sheesh, what kind of a creep do you think I am? 😉

And as for self-taught cooking – yeah, me too. In fact, I had something of a crash course when I was 13 – my mother ended up in the hospital for 3 weeks, then a wheelchair for a year after that . . . as the oldest of 4 (with a kitchen-impaired father) SOMEONE had to learn to cook – and fast!

origamifreak - January 27, 2010

You know what, your blog always looks so yummy, I think I’m going to nominate YOU to be my surrogate Nonna. LOL

My latest thing is baked winter squash. In the last week I’ve hacked up and baked: 1 carnival, 1 buttercup, 2 butternuts, and 1 ginormous jack-o-lantern.

And since that wasn’t enough to satisfy my squash-tooth, I bought some more buttercups that I saw at Tops, and some red kuris I saw at the Red Jacket Orchard outlet. LOL

At least we know I won’t have any beta-carotene deficiencies…

I’ve also been modifying my cranberry-orange bran muffin recipe to increase the protein. Here’s the latest version:
http://recipes.sparkpeople.com/recipe-detail.asp?recipe=906004
The fun part is cutting the orange into wedges and throwing them into the blender WITH THE PEELS ON. lol

I roasted a bunch of squash in bulk – 2 or 3 at a time – when had a spare couple of hours on the weekends, then just tossed them in the freezer. They make a great quick veggie for weeknights.

And does it matter what variety of orange you use for your muffins? It seems like something like a navel would have a much thicker skin, and bitter pithy part, than, say, a valencia. . .

origamifreak - January 28, 2010

I’ve become a squash snob, so I prefer kabocha relatives, when possible. LOL

You know, I haven’t actually checked WHICH variety of orange works best. I often use navels though – did in the last batch, anyway – and they were good. I usually blenderize them really well to make sure the peels are small, especially when making mini-muffins. It helps to do this before you add the cranberries, because otherwise those pieces get so small you can’t even see them. hehe

I’m not so picky – I like them all. 😉

2. Shawanda - January 28, 2010

This looks really good, but I’m a bit apprehensive about trying it. After hours and hours of cooking, it’d better turn out perfect. Otherwise, I’ll cry myself to sleep for screwing it up.

I know what you mean – but honestly, as long as you’ve got the patience to let it sit and do what it’s got to do, it’s pretty much fool-proof, I think.


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