While Saturdays are often eaten up with errands, shopping, and occasionally brunch, Sundays are generally left wide open in our house. I like to go for a swim in the morning, but that's about it for the to-do list. It's a great day for leisurely cooking.
I'm not sure there's a more leisurely and pleasing thing to make than bolognese sauce, which requires little chopping and cooks at a slow, steady simmer for hours. All you must do is occasionally check the pot, add a bit of water to keep it from sticking, and give it a stir. With next to no effort, you've got yourself a satisfying Sunday night dinner. It's the perfect sauce to make on a lazy day, when you want the house to smell delicious but aren't in the mood for anything complicated.
When the sauce is finally done, it's reduced to a deep, flavorful ragu, the meat mellowed by milk and wine, and flecked with tomato, carrot, and celery. There is no better way to brace yourself for the work week than a big bowl of rigatoni with bolognese sauce and a glass of red wine.
This past Sunday, while my bolognese bubbled away, I reflected on the very thoughtful Kreativ Blogger Award I recently got from Croque-Camille, who writes about her amazing life as a pastry chef in France. Thank you, Camille! Once you're tagged, you're supposed to reveal seven random facts (not necessarily food-related) about yourself, then tag seven others.
1. I hate fruit and chocolate together.
2. When I wear sunglasses, I believe I am invisible.
3. I am currently reading The Great Gatsby.
4. I always order duck if it's on the menu.
5. I am obsessed with the television show "Friday Night Lights."
6. My favorite color is orange.
7. I was the only child in the world who did not like pizza.
Tag, you're it: Ben; Shaz; wasabi prime; foodhoe; Kate; The Gypsy Chef; and my friend Alis.
adapted/abridged from Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking
Makes 2 heaping cups, for about 6 servings
1 T. vegetable oil
3 T. butter plus 1 T. for tossing the pasta
1/2 c. chopped onion
2/3 c. chopped celery
2/3 c. chopped carrot
3/4 lb. ground beef (not too lean; the more marbled, the sweeter the ragu)
1 c. whole milk
1 c. dry white wine
1 1/2 c. canned plum tomatoes, cut up, with juice
1-1 1/2 lbs. pasta (I used rigatoni)
salt and pepper
freshly grated parmesan
Choose a pot that retains heat, either earthenware or an enameled cast iron pan. Put oil, 3 T. butter, and onion in the pot and turn the heat on to medium. Cook and stir the onion until it has become translucent, then add the celery and carrot. Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring the vegetables to coat them well.
Add the 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 the milk and let it simmer gently, stirring frequently, until it has bubbled away completely. Add a tiny grating--about 1/8 t.--of nutmeg.
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 at least 3 hours (more is better), 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, continue the cooking, adding 1/2 c. 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 1 T. of butter, and serve with parmesan on the side.