Sunday, January 10, 2010

The best bolognese sauce

Jeremy’s and my goals in life run from the big - next move? next baby? to the small - finding the best bolognese sauce in the world.

I am happy to report that we have accomplished one of those goals.

We have been looking for a good bolognese sauce recipe for years, pre-wedded bliss even. We have used the slow cooker; we have cooked on the stove top. We settled on one recipe for a few years; Jeremy wrote it in his chicken scratch into my little recipe book. Recently, he opened up the search once again.

We were recently re-introduced to Cook’s Illustrated by our friends, and we’re in love. They had a classic bolognese recipe that we tried last Saturday night (we only used beef and pork; no veal in our house):

Classic bolognese sauce
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated

Makes 3 cups, enough to sauce 1 pound pasta.  Don’t drain the pasta of its cooking water too meticulously when using this sauce; a little water left clinging to the noodles will help distribute the very thick sauce evenly into the noodles, as will adding an extra 2 tablespoons of butter along with the sauce. Top each serving with a little grated Parmesan and pass extra grated cheese at the table. If doubling this recipe, increase the simmering times for the milk and the wine to 30 minutes each, and the simmering time once the tomatoes are added to 4 hours.

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons minced onion
2 tablespoons minced carrot
2 tablespoons minced celery
¾ pound meatloaf mix or ¼ pound each ground beef chuck, ground veal and ground pork
Table salt
1 cup whole milk
1 cup dry white wine
1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, packed in juice, chopped fine, with juice reserved

1. Heat butter in large, heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium heat; add onion, carrot, and celery and sautè until softened but not browned, about 6 minutes. Add ground meat and 1/2 teaspoon salt; following illustration below, crumble meat with edge of wooden spoon to break apart into tiny pieces. Cook, continuing to crumble meat, just until it loses its raw color but has not yet browned, about 3 minutes.

2. Add milk and bring to simmer; continue to simmer until milk evaporates and only clear fat remains, 10 to 15 minutes. Add wine and bring to simmer; continue to simmer until wine evaporates, 10 to 15 minutes longer. Add tomatoes and their juice and bring to simmer; reduce heat to low so that sauce continues to simmer just barely, with an occasional bubble or two at the surface, until liquid has evaporated, about 3 hours (if lowest burner setting is too high to allow such a low simmer, use a flame tamer or a foil ring (see related Quick Tip) to elevate pan). Adjust seasonings with extra salt to taste and serve. (Can be refrigerated in an airtight container for several days or frozen for several months. Warm over low heat before serving.)

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