Every Sunday night, for as long as I can remember, my grandparents have been coming over for Sunday dinner. Since my grandparents have always lived down the block from us, their being at my house was nothing out of the ordinary. But there was always something about Sunday night that made the meal more magical. Typically, we make traditional Sunday gravy with meatballs and sausage. You wake up, eat breakfast, and stare at the pot of sauce reducing on the stove all day long while dad takes chunks out of a loaf of bread and samples the evening meal. That’s just how it’s done in my house.
After a family reunion upstate, we stopped at a Farmer’s Market on the way home-well, I dragged everyone there because I can’t help myself. Not only did I see some gorgeous produce, I also discovered Northern Farmhouse Pasta- an artisan pasta shop and restaurant crafting pastas exclusively out of New York grown wheat. The vendor and I got to talking and he convinced me (although it didn’t take much) to buy their Cracked Pepper Pappardelle which he claimed to be their best seller. The whole way home, I dreamed of the Bolognese I would later smother it with.
Although I’ve been making Bolognese recipe-free for a couple of years, I often like to look back on another chef’s guidelines. One of my favorite recipes for Bolognese is from Marcella Hazan, who helped introduce the American public to Italian cuisine. Hazan’s recipe makes a velvety Bolognese that coats each noodle-perfect for a cold, Fall Sunday dinner.
Hazan's recipe is as follows:
You will need...
1T vegetable oi
3T butter, plus 1T for tossing the pasta
1/2C chopped onion
2/3C chopped celery
2/3C chopped carrot
3/4 pound ground beef chuck (or you can use 1 part pork to 2 parts beef)
Black pepper, ground fresh from the mill
1C whole milk
1C dry white wine
1 1/2C canned imported Italian plum tomatoes, cut up, with their juice
1 1/4-1 1/2 pounds pasta
Freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese at the table
Put the oil, butter and chopped onion in the pot and turn the heat on to medium. Cook and stir the onion until it has become translucent, then add the chopped celery and carrot. Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring vegetables to coat them well.
Add ground beef, a large pinch of salt and a few grindings of pepper. Crumble the meat with a fork, stir well and cook until the beef has lost its raw, red color.
Add milk and let it simmer gently, stirring frequently, until it has bubbled away completely. Add a tiny grating -- about 1/8 teaspoon -- of nutmeg, and stir.
Add the wine, let it simmer until it has evaporated, then add the tomatoes and stir thoroughly to coat all ingredients well. When the tomatoes begin to bubble, turn the heat down so that the sauce cooks at the laziest of simmers, with just an intermittent bubble breaking through to the surface. Cook, uncovered, for 3 hours or more, stirring from time to time. While the sauce is cooking, you are likely to find that it begins to dry out and the fat separates from the meat. To keep it from sticking, add 1/2 cup of water whenever necessary. At the end, however, no water at all must be left and the fat must separate from the sauce. Taste and correct for salt.
Toss with cooked drained pasta, adding the tablespoon of butter, and serve with freshly grated Parmesan on the side.
Paired with my new favorite Cracked Pepper Pasta, this Bolognese was a hit with my family. Of course, this Bolognese would go great with regular pasta. I prefer to pair it with a thick noodle so you have a good vessel for saucy goodness. As always after Sunday dinner, there wasn't a noodle left on anyone's dish.