I don’t know about you, but gray, rainy weather makes me crave comfort food. Chicken and dumplings, mac and cheese, even a grilled cheese sandwich and a cup of bean and bacon soup all sound irresistible, but at the top of the list is pasta. Nothing beats a good, imported Italian pasta. I love pasta carbonara or pasta with just butter and good Parmigiano Reggiano, but when my cravings strike hard, my go-to recipe is pasta bolognese. It’s a long, slow cooking recipe, but it is as deeply satisfying as anything I know.
Here are a few tips: Always use imported, whole Italian canned tomatoes, and always, always use imported Italian Parmigiano Reggiano. Nothing comes close to the real stuff. Most Parmigiano is aged two years, but if you are very, very lucky, you just might find some three or even five years old, and it is simply amazing.
Please remember that olive oil is an important and delicious ingredient, not just a lubricant. I use close to a cup when making this recipe. Add some, and if the pot starts to look dry, add more. When the sauce is done, add a little more. Really!
Slow cook the vegetables, and season generously. If you are using fresh herbs, add them three-quarters of the way through cooking, if you add them, in the beginning, they will disappear in the rich ragu. Do not take shortcuts. Do not rush the process. Make sure that the wine you use is a wine you would drink and is not sweet. A bottle of good Italian table wine is not expensive and will make a big difference.
If you add the meat to the sauce too soon, the meat will become mealy. Add the already browned meat 30 minutes before the sauce is done.
Lastly, do NOT overcook the pasta. You might not like it Italian style al dente, but mush just won’t do. It should be just a bit chewy.
- 1 pound fatty ground beef, pork or a combination of the two
- 2 chopped onions
- 1-2 chopped bell peppers
- 1-2 seeded and chopped jalapenos
- 3-6 cloves finely diced garlic
- 2 cans whole tomatoes
- ½ to ¾ bottle red wine
- Red pepper flakes
- Italian seasoning or fresh oregano and sage
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Lots of grated Parmigiano Reggiano and an old Parmigiano Reggiano rind
- Lots of best quality olive oil
Use a heavy bottom pot, cast iron is a good idea. Add the meat, season and add lots of olive oil. Cook until the meat is done. Remove and set aside. Do NOT wipe or wash the pot! Add the onions, jalapeños and bell peppers, lots of olive oil and season aggressively. Slow cook for at least fifteen minutes, twenty-five is better. Do not rush the process. Add the garlic and cook 10 minutes more, making sure not to burn it!. Add the wine and reduce by ⅔, add the tomatoes and the parm rind and simmer for at least 1 hour. Add the meat and cook for 30 minutes.
Add a little water if the sauce gets too thick. It is best if the sauce can cool down before serving, resting overnight is better. Reheat just before it is time to eat. Sprinkle lots of parm on top before serving over pasta.
PS If you are interested in top-quality, free-range pork, Sand Ridge Farms will be at the Greenhouse on Porter in Ocean springs on the 29th of Feb. Simply amazing pork chops, ground, and roasts. First come, first serve.