The Comfort of Bolognese Sauce

14 Jan

It has been freezing cold for the past few days.  I am in need of comfort food.  Desperately!  I decided to make a Bolognese sauce after reading through one of my old Gourmet Magazines.  Can we stop for a moment and recognize how great that magazine is and how sad I am it is no longer in publication?  Okay – I am wiping the tears.  I will be alright.  I will learn how to make it somehow.  Anyway, I was feeling the need for some comfort.  I have been making hot chocolate as well (post coming soon).  The sauce actually originated from Bologna, Italy, and there are many versions of this sauce.  So I put it together my way.

I have two words for you: Porcini Mushrooms.

God they are so good.  Open up the container and just stick your nose in it.  I smell food like a somelier smells wine.  Take it in, breath it, become it.  Okay, maybe I am taking it a little too far.  But I am sure some of you out there may feel the same way.

Porcini mushrooms have an amazing smell.  Earthy, nutty, sensual, and just exquisite.  In Italy they consider the Porcini mushroom to be the king of all mushrooms.  Here is a fun fact for you.  Do you know what a Mycologist does?  A Mycologist is a mushroom scientist.  A person dedicated to the world of fungi.  I just learned this the other day and I am fascinated and want to know more.  I would love to meet a Mycologist, have them over for dinner.  Maybe serve them mushrooms?  Or do you think they get tired of them?  I loooooooove mushrooms.  I know I love garlic too, but there is no jealousy in my love.  It is all good.

Place porcini mushrooms in a bowl and cover with boiling water.  Let the mushrooms sit for about 20 minutes to soften.

After your mushrooms are nice and tender, strain them and reserve the liquid.  Make sure to push them into the strainer to get all the juices out.  You can also chop them up a bit before you put them into the pan.  You will also want to strain the liquid in a strainer lined with a paper towel, to get the liquid clear of any dirt.

You can start on your prep while the mushrooms are soaking.  Grab your onions.

Chop up 1 1/2 – 2 onions depending on their size.

And don’t forget the garlic. I think I used about 6-7 cloves, but you may want to use about 4 or so.  I think I saw a recipe that called for 2 cloves.  That is just not right.  What are 2 cloves supposed to do in a rich sauce?  They will get lost; don’t let that happen to your garlic.

Grab some carrots and celery.  I used 4 carrots, but two of them were really small.  So two large or three regular size carrots would have worked.  Same goes for the celery.  I used about 4 short stalks.

When you have a few items that need to be sliced and diced, make the same motions before you proceed to the next.  Meaning take all the stalks and slice them into thin strips and then dice all the strips instead of slicing and dicing one stalk at at time.  Repeating the same motion will speed the process along.  Think of it as a factory line.

I wanted to add a bit of demi glace to my bolognese and I used this stuff.  This will add a lot of flavor.  Place the demi glace into a small pot, add 1/2 cup of water and whisk until combined and remove from the heat.

Get a big can of San Marzano tomatoes.  You could use other tomatoes, but why would you? San Marzano tomatoes are related to plum tomatoes.  They are well suited for a sauce like this, because they are sweeter than regular tomatoes and less acidic.

Dump the tomatoes out of the can and into a large bowl.  Use your potato masher to crush the tomatoes.

Here we go . . . start with heating your pan, and then drizzle about 2 T of olive oil.  Heat the oil until it shimmers.

Add the beef (grass fed baby) and sausage to the pan.  Season with salt and pepper.  Brown the meat, then remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Use the same pan.  Drop your carrots in first and sweat down for a couple of minutes.  The reason I  like to put the carrots in first is to get them browned.  Celery and onion have so much water in them that the carrots don’t have have the opportunity to get browned.  Getting them browned, or caramelized, just adds more natural sweetness.  Look at at all the juicy brown bits forming in the pan.  Yum!

Then add your onions, garlic and celery, rosemary and bay leaf.  Let the mixture sweat down for a couple of minutes.  Add your white wine, let it reduce by half.

Add everything else and  let the magic happen.  The longer this sauce simmers the better it gets. Use a hearty pasta, like a tagliatelle, bucatini or a rigatoni.  There are many varieties you can use, but make sure it is a pasta that can hold up to the meaty sauce.

Grate a bit of fresh nutmeg over your sauce.  You can use the pre-ground stuff but fresh is better.  It is also stronger so don’t get too carried away.

Garnish with some Parmesano Reggiano and enjoy!  A glass of sangiovese or chianti wine and crusty bread goes along very nice with this sauce.

1 1/2  onions, chopped small dice
2-3    carrots, chopped small dice
2-3    celery Stalks, chopped small dice
4-7    garlic cloves, minced
2 1/2 cups dried porcini mushrooms
2        cups boiling water
1/2    cup water
2        tablespoons of olive oil
2        tablespoons of demi glace (one individual package)
1         pound ground grass fed beef
2        fresh Italian sausage links
1        28 oz can of San Marzano tomatoes
1        sprig of rosemary, chopped
1        bay leaf
1        cup dry white wine (you can also use red wine or leave it out)
1/8    teaspoon fresh nutmeg
1        pound dried rigatoni
parmesano reggiano for garnish

1. Place the porcini mushrooms in a bowl and cover with the boiling water to soften.  Let stand for about 20 minutes.  Strain mushrooms and reserve liquid. Squeeze the mushroom to get out any liquid.  Line another strainer with a paper towel and let the liquid strain to clean it, then chop.
2. Heat oil, cook both meats, season with salt and pepper. Once browned, remove with a slotted spoon and put aside.
3. Use the same pan and any fat left in the pan.  You can add more oil if the pan is too dry.  Drop carrots, cook down for a couple of minutes.  Add celery, onions, garlic, rosemary and bay leaf.  Let mixture cook down for 3 – 5 minutes.
5. Add wine and let it reduce by half.  Scrape any brown bits stuck on the bottom of the pan
6. While onion mixture is cooking, drain your tomatoes into a bowl and crush with a potato masher.
7.  Place the demi glace concentrate into a small pan and add 1/2 cup of water.  Whisk until fully combined and set aside.
8.  Add meat mixture back to the pan, porcini mushrooms, reserved mushroom liquid, tomatoes, demi glace, nutmeg, salt and pepper.  Simmer the sauce for at least an hour and up to 3 hours.
9.  In the meantime cook your pasta.  Drain it and serve sauce over pasta.  Garnish with parmesano reggiano and mangia!

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One Response to “The Comfort of Bolognese Sauce”

  1. salwa January 18, 2010 at 10:44 am #

    wow, wow, wow that is so great

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