Bolognese

Somehow California missed the memo this year that the official start to winter was almost a month ago. Rather than be socked in with rain and debating whether to wear my rain coat and freeze or my winter coat and be drenched, I have seen nothing but blue bird skies and 60 degrees temperatures making the debate do I wear a coat today or not.

While it is definitely making me tired of my fall wardrobe, bummed that I bought a ski pass this year, and worried for what this means about the general well-being of our planet, I am not complaining one bit. Especially when it means that the tan from my winter beach vacation lasts beyond my first week back.

I think most of Hollywood would share in my same sentiments. They were all looking very tan last night at the Golden Globes. My sister texted that they had really overdone the bronzer / spray tans this year but I have a sneaking suspicion that the golden hue was actually natural.

So in honor of it being officially winter but not really winter in SF I wanted to make the most wintery dish I knew – Bolognese. Shockingly I have never made Bolognese and for some reason it just sounded so delicious, and homey, and wintery. I guess I must be craving the season on some small-scale.

I sifted through the cookbooks and landed on a recipe for Tuscan Meat and Tomato Ragu from Lidia Bastianich’s Lidia’s Italty. Not only did it feel totally authentic with a mix of pork, veal and sausage but it seemed pretty straightforward and easy to make.


I was a little nervous when the sauce first came together – it seemed pretty watery and not at all tomato based. But as it sat simmering for close to 3 hours the flavors really blended together and the sauce thickened up perfectly. Just as I hoped it was totally delish (although I will admit it does not make the best food pics).

Tuscan Meat and Tomato Ragu

Makes 9 cups

1/2 cup dried porcini mushrooms

1 medium onion, in chunks (1 cup or more)

2 celery ribs, in chunks (about 2 cups)

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 lb ground veal

1 lb ground pork

1 lb sweet Italian sausage, removed from the casing and crumbled

1 tsp salt, or to taste

2 cups of red wine (I used a Dynamite Vineyard Merlot)

28oz can of San Marzano canned plum tomatoes crushed by hand

Meat, poultry, or vegetable stock, or water, as needed

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

 

Soak the dried porcini in a cup or so of hot water for at least 1/2 hour.

Using the food processor, puree the onion and celery to a paste. Heat the oil in the saucepan over medium-high heat, scrape in the paste, and stir it for 3 or 4 minutes as it steams and starts to caramelize.

Add all the meats to the pan, raise the heat, and continuously turn and loosen the chopped meat as it sears and browns. Sprinkle 2 tsps salt over the meat, and keep tossing and breaking up any lumps, until all the meat is colored and has started to release moisture. Cook, frequently stirring, to evaporate the wine. Meanwhile, lift the reconstituted porcini pieces from the soaking water, squeeze them dry, and chop into bits. Stir the porcini into the sizzling meats. When the wine has almost evaporated, pour in the porcini water (but not the sediment), stir, and cook until it too has disappeared into the meat.

Pour the tomatoes into the pan, slosh the container with 2 cups of water, and stir that in. Cook, covered, until the tomato juices are bubbling, than lower the heat and simmer the sauce, partially covered for 2 to 3 hours – the longer it perks the better! As the sauce reduces, add stock or water as needed to keep the meat covered by liquid. (I didn’t find that I needed any.)

Taste, and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Use right away or – for best flavor – let the sauce sit for a couple of hours or up to 2 days (refrigerated). Loosen sauce with water or stock, if necessary, when reheating.

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