[recipe] Bolognese how it should be

It doesn’t have to be minced beef in a tomato sauce you know.  Real Bolognese is something more.  So much more!  This recipe is fantastic and is taken from Marlena di Blasi’s wonderful Regional Foods of Northern Italy.  Like all recipes, I don’t follow them exactly once I’ve got the gist of what’s going on.  Sometimes I forget things and sometimes I add extra things.  It all depends on how I’m feeling and what I have experimented with in the past from other recipes.

There’s another book which focuses on Southern Italy.  If you like Italian food then these books are a must.  The recipes are excellent and different to those you usually encounter in Italian recipe books and the introductions to each recipe are a dramatic and over-the-top treat.  Here’s part of the introduction to the recipe for the Winemaker’s Wife’s Stew [a stew of fresh beans, artichokes, pancetta, white wine and mint].  Marlena has decided to go to Rome for her birthday “convinced that the salve of the place would soften the edges of a long sadness”.

“I unwrapped the Georgian candlesticks I always carry with me from their cradle in my old taffeta skirt, threw open the shutters to beams of a rosy moon, and the birthday room was ready”

This are not the writings of Jamie Oliver.  These two books would probably be my Desert Island Cookbooks, if there were such a thing.

Anyway, on to the recipe.  You will need [for five or six people]:

50g dried porcini mushrooms

500ml warm veal or beef stock

3 tablespoons’ of unsalted butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

100g pancetta, finely chopped

small handful each of onion, carrot and celery

200g each of finely chopped veal and pork

2 chicken livers, cleaned and trimmed and chopped in half

250ml white wine

scrapings of nutmeg

150ml tomato purée

250ml double cream

A load of grated parmesan cheese

1 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar

Soak your dried mushrooms in some of the stock for quarter of an hour, then drain and chop.  Remember to keep the stock you soaked the mushrooms in.

Warm 2 tablespoons of butter with the olive oil and sauté the pancetta with the onion, carrot and celery.  Like all things in cookery, finely chopped is a personal preference.  I didn’t mince my pancetta but cut it into matchsticks.  The vegetables were fairly fine but not so small that they would disappear during the cooking.

After around five minutes, add the veal and pork to the pan.  Rather than buy minced pork or veal, I chopped them myself with a knife, to about the same size as the pancetta.  I didn’t want to end up with a sludge, but a sauce with a bit of heft! Sauté for another five minutes but try to brown the ingredients – just cook them through.

Now add everything else but the cream, parmesan, vinegar and the remaining butter and leave it to simmer gently.  Leave it about 30 minutes and turn off the heat.  Leave it for three or four hours or overnight if you can.

As you cook the pasta [go for 100g – 120g per person if you’re being civilised or up to 150g if you’re not], reheat the sauce.

I know people get terribly excited about the selection of pasta shapes but, for me, it depends on what’s in the house to be honest. I used penne last night but if you want to be authentic, go for something like tagliatelli or spaghetti.   

Once the sauce is hot, add the vinegar, the butter, the cream and about a handful of parmesan.  Check for seasoning and then stir through the drained pasta.  Top with parmesan at the table and plenty of freshly ground black pepper

With all that butter, cheese and cream this is not a dish normally found as part of a strict diet but oh it’s good!

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