“Wine is Sunlight, held together by Water.” -Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) – from the American Pi Cookbook: Recipes from Atlanta’s Paideia School
The Italian word, Ragù, means “to stimulate the appetite.” As a general rule, my appetite needs no stimulation. Wine, of course, also helps one enjoy food (often, more of it!). Perhaps the reason my family and I enjoy this particular dish so much is the name itself? Or is it the tasty red wine married with rich tomato sauce and hearty meat?
I often make Bolognese after a long or stressful day. There is something oddly therapeutic about tending a pot of gorgeous meat sauce, provided classical (or classical jazz, or opera, depending on how difficult the day) music is playing and the munchkins are in bed.
Over the last few months, I have experimented with quite a few different Ragù recipes. A front-runner, Kiyo’s recipe at My Lilikoi Kitchen, is excellent. Her recipe demonstrates that the ground meat in the dish shouldn’t be browned, but just cooked through. This creates a luscious, tender result in the overall texture of the sauce. Have you visited her fun, fabulous blog? If you like Hawaii and love to eat fantastic food, head to My Lilikoi Kitchen. You won’t be disappointed. Kiyo suggests that you pair leftover Bolognese Ragù, homemade spinach noodles, and all of the other “usual suspects” to create a delectable, impressive lasagna.
The first traditional Bolognese Ragù I made, circa 2004, was from the American Pi Cookbook: Recipes from Atlanta’s Paideia School. This is the cookbook that taught me to cook, or at least began the process. Over the years, I have ordered this cookbook for many friends to encourage them in their own culinary journeys.
The cookbook is filled not only with international, well-tested recipes but also witty prose and funny, poignant quotes. One of the writers of the book is the legendary, Atlanta-based food writer and food critic – and Paideia School dad – John Kessler. The Paideia School itself is an intown school that provides not only great education, but opportunities for self-expression and exploration, creativity, thought and original thinking.
As any recipe does, this one has evolved over the years. Making Bolognese Ragù requires a feeling of connection with the recipe, ingredients and the pot itself. My particular pot is a red, Le Creuset dutch oven knock-off, found at a discount store years ago. It heats evenly and serves me well… though the knob on top of the lid is a bit loose. Once you obtain a level of comfort, small amounts of “recipe alterations” occur. I attempt to remain true to the traditional dish, to a point.
My version uses garlic-infused extra virgin olive oil, piles of colorful, bright vegetables; self-ground buffalo and thick slabs of lean turkey bacon. The sauce is finished off with creamy, organic, lactose-free milk. Later, it ladled over a mound of hot spaghetti pasta. For me, it must be spaghetti; like the scene in the movie Lady and the Tramp, slurping a long, thin noodle is imperative. The finishing touch is a hefty sprinkling of formaggio: an extra-aged, Italian, sheep’s milk Pecorino Romano. I never fail to grate my own cheese; this entitles me to eat that last, scrumptious end piece that cannot be broken-down by the microplane.
My hubby, Abba, is travelling often this Spring. There is no competition for that last piece of cheese. He is interviewing all over the country for fellowships in head and neck reconstructive surgery. Our ten-plus year journey in his pursuit of a surgical career is winding down. Now, tonight dinner is not ready until after 9:00 PM. Abba would be a hungry guy by this hour. Fortunately, he is two time zones away and ate at a reasonable time. When he accepts a fellowship, this will be the perfect celebratory meal; it combines our shared love of pasta and fond memories of making this dish in our intown Atlanta basement apartment, many years ago, when we were just beginning our life together.
This meal is rounded of with my favorite salad; a fresh, artisanal crusty bread and (of course) some of the remaining red wine used to enhance sauce during cooking.
Also, many thanks to Massi at Massi Kitchen! He gave Curls and Carrots a wonderful gift: the fun, beautiful new site logo. Thank you to Massi for lending his talents in graphic design. If you enjoy Italian food and beautiful photos, I encourage you to visit his scrumptious and gorgeous blog.
(Almost) Traditional Bolognese Ragù
Adapted from the American Pi Cookbook: Recipes from Atlanta’s Paideia School
3-4 Tablespoons garlic-infused extra-virgin olive oil
1 small white onion, minced
4 large carrots, peeled and diced
4 large celery stalks, diced
3 ounces thickly sliced, lean turkey bacon, cut into small cubes
1 pound organic, grass-fed buffalo/bison or extra lean meat, ground*
1/2 cup good-quality, light-bodied red wine, preferably Italian
5 Tablespoons double concentrated tomato paste*
5 cups low-sodium, organic beef broth
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced
1 tsp. dried or fresh oregano, rubbed together between your palms
fine salt and cracked, black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup organic, lactose-free cow milk or goat milk (1-2% milk fat)
hot, cooked pasta, such as spaghetti or fettuccine
extra-aged pecorino Romano cheese, freshly grated
fresh basil or parsley, finely chopped (optional)
*Lacking a meat grinder, I cubed the meat and used my food processor to grind it. Sacrebleu!
*I have made my own, but the taste difference was minimal.
- Heat the oil in a dutch oven over medium heat. At the turkey bacon, celery, carrots and onions. Cook for about ten minutes, stirring often, until the vegetables and turkey have gold color. Season with salt and pepper.
- Add the ground buffalo or lean beef. Break up the meat with a spatula. Cook just until the meat is well-incorporated, broken into small pieces and mostly cooked through. Do not brown the meat. Season with salt and pepper.
- Increase heat to medium-high. Stir in the wine. Cook for a few minutes, just until the liquid is reduced by three-fourths.
- Stir in the tomato paste and beef broth. Mix until the sauce is uniform.
- Reduce heat to low, partially cover, and lightly simmer for two hours. Stir the sauce every fifteen to thirty minutes. Season with salt and pepper as needed.
- The sauce should be thick, but a slight amount of liquid should remain. Add more broth if the sauce dries out.
- Add the milk, partially cover, and simmer for fifteen minutes more. Taste and season as necessary.
- Serve hot atop a thick, freshly cooked pasta. Top with freshly grated pecorino romano and chopped, fresh basil or parsley, if using.
©Shanna Koenigsdorf Ward, shannaward.com (2013-2014), unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without expressed and written permission from this blog’s author, Shanna Koenigsdorf Ward, and/or owner is strictly and completely prohibited.