Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Bolognese sauce

As I previously mentioned, I spent much of my vacation reading the book Heat by Bill Buford. It is an autobiography of sorts that followed a lay person through their time in a professional kitchen, under the direction of none other than Mario Batali. Mr. Buford experienced the different facets of working in a kitchen from the basic kitchen slave, learning to properly chop carrots, to a line cook. It is cleverly written in that it concentrates not just on his experiences, but stories from Batali's rise to fame as well as exploring different Italian dishes. For instance, Buford spends time researching the origin of pasta and when an egg was added to the mix of flour and water. Side tangents like this made the book not only very readable, but rather inspiring.

One of the sections that inspired me most was his description and explanation of authentic Bolognese sauce- a staple in Italian cooking. Basically put, the sauce contains very few ingredient- normally two types of meat, and three types of liquid. It comes from the Italian brown cooking style so tomatoes are not a necessary ingredient, and Buford explains that the addition of them may be seen as a more American spin rather than the authentic. I decided to try my hand at an authentic Bolognese, keeping in mind that dishes should be more about the pasta than the sauce which is merely a condiment.

For my adaptation I chose three meats- cured pork bacon for a smokey flavor, veal and ground beef. I browned the bacon first, added garlic to the pan with parsley and basil, and then added the ground veal and beef. After those had sufficiently browned and caramelized, I began to add the liquids. Traditional Bolognese is made with Beef Broth, Milk and Wine- so those are what I added, though I was very uncomfortable added the milk- it just seemed strange to me. I simmered these together until most of the liquid had been absorbed and then I ladled a bit over Orecchiette pasta, my favorite type of pasta. The sauce wasn't bad. It absolutely allowed the pasta to shine which had been my goal, though I wasn't used to eating pasta that way. I had been very light handed on the salt and pepper, so in the future I may bump that up. I was also very light handed on the milk addition so Ill increase that next time as well. Additionally, I had used skim milk which may have defeated the purpose of the milk all together. All in all though, I was pleased with my sauce.

I decided the next night to use the sauce as a stuffing for shells. So I boiled up quite a few shells, added some shredded mozzarella cheese to the bottom of each shell and then spooned in healthy portions of my Bolognese sauce. I laid each in a pan and covered with a homemade marinara. I then topped this with slices of fresh mozzarella and baked for 20 minutes or so at 350 degrees. The result was delicious. Normally when I cook, I am rarely hungry by the time the dish is prepared (a helpful trait for someone who loves cooking and food as much as I do- cuts down on my portions) however- I ate more than my normal portion because the combination was so complete between the spiciness of the sauce with the creaminess of the cheese and the intricate flavors of the Bolognese- I was quite pleased with the result.

I have one problem though- many of the shells I cooked broke apart during the boiling process and were un use able- any suggestions?

Oh and D- I need to remind myself again but SCONES! Thanks :-)


Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

so whenever my mom does shells, she always has a big bowl of broken i think that just may be the way they are.

Oh, and YAY on the scones!!!

Kim said...
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Boston Food Diary said...

Hey- I tried it with oriechette the first night just as something for me, but then I did stuffed shells with the Bolognese the second night. Yeah-it was good pasta- I think that might just be the way it is with shells :-(

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