It’s Valentine’s Day, and it’s a weeknight – not exactly a great recipe for putting together a nice, romantic meal with your special someone. The odds are pretty good that you both will be tired and maybe you will not feel like putting together a big meal. If you are like us, Sean has afterschool activities today until later in the evening, Michelle is working late at the office, and there probably won’t be time to do much of anything for dinner, so we’ll put it off until another night. However, it is not too late if you still want to throw something together for dinner, and nothing gets much easier than a nice pasta dinner. You can make a great dinner using this recipe for Marcella Hazan’s Bolognese sauce that I got from New York Times Cooking. It’s worth the little bit of effort you put into it to make a nice meal.
Marcella Hazan’s Bolognese Sauce
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 tablespoons butter plus 1 tablespoon for tossing the pasta
½ cup chopped onion
⅔ cup chopped celery
⅔ cup chopped carrot
¾ pound ground beef chuck (or you can use 1 part pork to 2 parts beef)
Black pepper, ground fresh from the mill
1 cup milk
1 cup dry white wine
1 ½ cups canned imported Italian plum tomatoes, cut up, with their juice
1 ¼ to 1 ½ pounds pasta
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese at the table
Put the oil, butter, and chopped onion in the pot and turn the heat on to medium. Cook and stir the onion until it has become translucent, then add the chopped celery and carrot. Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring the vegetables to coat them well.
Add the ground beef, a generous pinch of salt and a few grindings of pepper. Crumble the meat with a fork, stir it well and cook the beef until it has lost its raw, red color.
Add the milk and let it simmer gently, frequently stirring, until it has bubbled away completely. Add a little grating — about 1/8 teaspoon — of nutmeg, and stir.
Add the white wine, let it simmer until it has evaporated, then add the tomatoes and stir them thoroughly to coat all the ingredients well. When the tomatoes begin to bubble, turn the heat down so that the sauce cooks at a very light simmer, with just an occasional bubble breaking through to the surface. Cook the sauce, uncovered, for about 3 hours, 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, add about 1/2 cup of water whenever necessary. In the end, however, no water at all must be left, and the fat must separate from the sauce. Taste the sauce and correct it for salt.
Toss the sauce with cooked, drained pasta, adding the tablespoon of butter, and serve the meal with freshly grated Parmesan on the side.
I am not a pasta person myself, but Michelle loved this dish when I made it. She said the sauce was perfect and full of flavor. You do want to make sure that you taste the sauce along the way so you can make any adjustments regarding seasoning, water, etc. so it turns out perfectly. The longer you cook this sauce, the greater depth of flavor it will have so you might want to make this when you have time to set in on the stove for hours and let it go, with just the occasional check to see how it is cooking. Bolognese by definition is a pretty straightforward and mild sauce without a lot of spices in it, so the simplicity here lets it shine into a delicious meat sauce. That hint of nutmeg does make a difference so don’t be afraid to put in there. You can certainly let the sauce cook for only an hour or two, but it might not have the deep flavor to it that it will if you go for 3, 4 or even 5 hours. Just keep a watch on it to see if it needs water now and then. This meal is perfect with your favorite fresh pasta, a nice side salad and some homemade or store-bought dressing, some homemade bread (or your favorite store-bought) and a bottle of wine.
That’s all I have for today. Check back next time for another recipe. Until then, enjoy the rest of your day, have a lovely Valentine’s Day and enjoy your meal!