Monday, November 24, 2008

"I want to be able to eat spaghetti bolognese...

...and not feel bad about it for days and days and days"

-Lily Allen, "Everything's Just Wonderful"

I like to cook (relatively) healthily. Blame it on my mother. So in the past, whenever I'd look at the Bolognese sauce recipe in La Vera Cucina Italiana I would shy away...1/4 pound of bacon, 1 cup of heavy cream...

Granted, that's for five pounds of veal and beef. Even more importantly though, whenever I have made meat sauce, similar to Bolognese, in the past, I have used FAR too much aromatics (carrot, onion, celery). Afghans love their onions and garlic, and when I first (six odd years ago) started to cook, meat pasta sauce was one of the first dishes I would make. But as an Afghan, I probably used one whole large onion for one pound of meat. I've since come down to 1/2 or so, but even that was five or ten times the amount the author of the above cookbook suggests.

Yesterday, after chopping my usual one carrot, one stick of celery, and half an onion, I looked at the recipe for Bolognese in that cookbook. It called for 1/4 cup of onion, 1/4 cup of celery, and 1/2 cup of carrot. But I was cooking five times less meat!

1/20 cup of onion! It seemed absurd! Out of curiosity, I finally gave in and went with it.

To my astonishment, the result was the greatest meat sauce I'd ever created. In fact, I even went so far as to use a bit of chopped bacon (no pancetta around) to start the dish. I forgot the milk/cream finish, but it was probably rich enough already ;)

The subtle aromatics lended an incredibly meaty sauce. But I used good beef, from the farmer's market, which had a delectable, gamey taste, far superior to store-bought. Not bad for $5/lb!

The ingredient list was so simple:

1lb ground beef
1/4 cup bacon
~1 tbsp onion
~1 tbsp celery
~2 tbsps carrot
2 tbsps olive oil (should be probably 1 tbsp max)
1 garlic clove
pinch of nutmeg
1 cup white wine (recipe called for 1/4 cup, but this is cheap wine with less flavor!)
1/3 can tomato paste

Fry bacon in olive oil, add aromatics except garlic, cook until onion is translucent, add meat and brown, then add garlic, saute briefly until fragrant, then add wine and tomato paste and simmer for at least one hour. Serve with tagliatelle or fettucine.

I served it with egg fettucine tossed with sauteed eggplant, cherry tomatoes, kalamata olives, spinach, garlic, lots of extra virgin olive oil, and a splash of wine (reduced with eggplants). Oh and plenty of grated Asiago and Romano.

Unfortunately I have no worthy pictures of the Bolognese, but here is the pasta:

Eggplant, Cherry Tomato, Garbanzo Bean, Kalamata Olive, and Spinach Fettucine
with garlic-white wine sauce and Asiago and Romano cheese

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