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Today, I'm going to share with you one of the best, if not the best, beef bolognese recipe!
I'd usually save at least my afternoon and evening to make this because you need at least three hours to simmer the sauce and that is not counting simmering the milk and wine before that. But, it is worth the time because you can make a huge batch and portion them out (like what I did in the picture) and keep them in the refrigerator (more on that in the after note). So I'd say if you have a day, give this a shot and savour one of the best beef bolognese!
Bolognese Meat Sauce (from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan)
Some things to note:
Ragu, as the Bolognese call their celebrated meat sauce, is characterized by mellow, gentle, comfortable flavor that any cook can achieve by being careful about a few basic points:
The meat should not be from too lean a cut; the more marbled it is, the sweeter the ragu will be. The most desirable cut of beef is the neck portion of the chuck.
Add salt immediately when sauteing the meat to extract its juices for the subsequent benefit of the sauce.
Cook the meat in milk before adding wine and tomatoes to protect if from the acidic bite of the latter.
Do not use a demiglace or other concentrates that tip the balance of flavors toward harshness.
Use a pot that retains heat. Earthenware is preferred in Bologna and by most cooks in Emilia-Romagna, but enameled cast-iron pans or a pot whose heavy bottom is composed of layers of steel alloys are fully satisfactory.
Cook, uncovered, at the merest simmer for a long, long time; no less than 3 hours is necessary, more is better.
(2 heaping cups, for about 6 servings and 1 1/2 pounds pasta)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 tablespoons butter plus 1 tablespoon for tossing the pasta
1/2 cup chopped onion
2/3 cup chopped celery
2/3 cup chopped carrot
3/4 pound ground beef chuck
(see prefatory note above)
Black pepper, ground fresh from the mill
1 cup whole milk
1 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 cup canned imported Italian plum tomatoes, cut up, with their juice
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 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 large pinch of salt, and a few grindings of pepper. Crumble the meat with a fork, stir well, and cook until th beef has lost its raw, red color.
Add the milk and let it simmer gently, stirring frequently, until it has bubbled away completely. Add a tiny grating - about 1/8 teaspoon - of nutmeg and stir.
Add the wine, let it simmer until it has evaporated, then add the tomatoes and stir thoroughly to coat all ingredients well. When the tomatoes begin to bubble, turn the heat down so that the sauce cooks at the laziest of simmers, with just an intermittent bubble breaking through to the surface. Cook, uncovered, for 3 hours or more, 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, continue the cooking, adding 1/2 cup of water whenever necessary. At the end, however, no water at all must be left and the fat must separate from the sauce. Taste and correct for salt.
Toss with cooked drained pasta, adding the tablespoon of butter, and serve with freshly grated Parmesan on the side.
Ahead-of-time note: If you cannot watch the sauce for a 3- to 4-hour stretch, you can turn off the heat whenever you need to leave, and resume cooking later on, as long as you complete the sauce within the same day. Once done, you can refrigerate the sauce in a tightly sealed container for 3 days, or you can freeze it. Before tossing with pasta, reheat it, letting it simmer for 15 minutes and stirring it once or twice.
Variation of Ragu with PorkPork is an important part of Bologna's culture, its economy, and the cuisine, and many cooks add some pork to make their ragu tastier. Use 1 part ground pork, preferably from the neck or Boston butt, to 2 parts beef, and make the meat sauce exactly as described in the basic recipe above.