The Bolognese Sauce (for about 6 servings)
This takes some planning ahead because the Bolognese cooks a long time. But what better way is there to spend a rainy or snowy day? Make it a day or two before you want to use it, if you like; it only improves with age.
1Tbl olive oil
3 Tbl butter
2/3 Cup chopped onion
1/2 Cup chopped carrot
1 lb ground meat, mix of beef and pork, not overly lean
1 Cup whole milk
whole nutmeg for grating
1 Cup dry white wine
1 1/2 cups canned plum tomatoes, cut up, with juice
note: you can cook this in a stainless steel or enameled cast-iron pot (never aluminum!) or in a terracotta pot, which is the preferred vessel in Italy. If you use terracotta, be careful to bring the pot up to temperature gradually to reduce the risk of cracking. We use a heat diffuser between the flame and the pot, and that has worked well. I don’t think terracotta would do well on an electric heating element.
1. Saute the onion in the oil and butter until it has become translucent; add the carrot and cook for 2 more minutes.
2. Add the ground meat, a large pinch of salt and some freshly-ground pepper. Crumble the meat with a fork until the pieces are very small and cook until the meat has lost its red color.
3. Add the milk and let it slowly simmer, stirring frequently, until it has disappeared. Add a couple of quick grates of nutmeg and stir it in.
4. Add the wine and let it simmer until it, too, has evaporated. Then add the tomatoes, stirring well. When the tomatoes begin to bubble turn the heat down very low so that the sauce cooks as slowly as possible. The correct setting is when there are so few bubbles that you’re not quite sure whether or not it’s boiling, but then you decide it is. Cook at this lowest of simmers for at least 3 hours – longer is even better, 5 even – giving it a stir now and then. Should it begin to dry out add 1/2 cup of water to discourage sticking. At the end of the cooking time, though, you want no water remaining, and you want the fat to be separate from the sauce. (Don’t even think about removing that fat. As one of the cooking doyennes said, ‘fat is what gives food flavor.’)
The classic way to eat Bolognese is on fresh tagliatelle with the sauce placed in the center of the pasta, and a pat of butter put in the center of the sauce, then all given a sprinkling of Parmigiano. Actually, it’s good on ANY pasta, fresh or dry, or… on
3 Cups broth, vegetable or meat, either home-made or made from a bouillon cube, boiling and kept simmering on a back burner through the cooking process
1 1/2 Cup carnaroli or arborio rice
1 medium onion minced very fine
2 Tbl olive oil and a knob of butter
1/2 Cup dry white wine
1/3 – 1/2 Cup grated parmigiano cheese
pinch of saffron (optional)
1. Saute the minced onion in the oil and butter until it is transparent. Try to avoid browning.
2. Add the rice and cook, stirring, for about 3 minutes, until the grains are opaque.
3. Add the wine and cook, stirring, until the wine evaporates.
4. Start adding the boiling broth a ladle or two at a time, stirring after each addition. After each addition of broth let the rice cook, stirring, until the broth is almost absorbed, then add another ladle or two and continue cooking. Keep cooking and slowly ladling in the broth for about 18-20 minutes. When the rice is about done (you want it to be a little chewy when it’s done) stir in the parmigiano cheese and stir well until it’s melted. The risotto should be creamy, with a bit of liquid, but not soupy.
To serve, dish the rice into a bowl and make a small well in the center, into which spoon a good dollop of Bolognese sauce. Put additional grated cheese out at the table for people to add as they wish.