I Want A Nonna January 27, 2010Posted by Toy Lady in random stuff.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.)
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!
Fortunately, 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.
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 . . .
So 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.