Looks like spring, feels like spring…

My daffodils are so confused! They have actually starting peeking out of the ground, probably soon to be frozen, literally, in their tracks. As for me, I am not finished with winter yet! I want some snowy, bitter cold days where I have a perfectly legitimate reason to not leave the house. I can stay inside, look out the window at my fire pit, filled with snow, eat warming comfort foods and dream of spring. I feel like I am cheating somehow, we are getting spring without ever really having suffered and enjoyed the bummers and beauties of winter.

An Early Spring!

Oh, well. I am still going to make some yummy comfort food and pretend.

I am craving Pasta with Meat Sauce. I do not make the long version of Bolognese with milk,  3 kinds of meat and an afternoon of simmering. For one thing, I can’t easily find all those different ground meats and for another, I don’t really like my meat sauce with milk in it. This is the sauce I am making these days, adapted from Lidia Bastianich.

Pasta with Meat Sauce

  • 3 T olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled and chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, cleaned and chopped
  • 1 pound ground beef, preferably 85% lean
  • ½ cup dry red wine
  • 1 T tomato paste
  • 1 28 oz can chopped Italian plum tomatoes with their liquid
  • 3 bay leaves
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound rigatoni or spaghetti
  • Freshly grated Parmagiana Reggiano cheese

Heat oil in a large heavy pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and cook until translucent. Add carrot and celery and cook until softened. Crumble meat into pot and cook, stirring to break up meat. Continue cooking until all the liquid the meat has given off has evaporated and the meat has started to brown, about 15-20 minutes. Do not skip this step, it greatly affects the flavor of the finished sauce.

Stir in wine and cook for a few minutes, scraping the pot, until the wine has evaporated. Stir in tomato paste and cook for a few minutes to brown lightly. Stir in chopped tomatoes, bay leaves and add a sprinkle of salt and a grinding of pepper.

Bring the sauce to a simmer and then lower the heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is has thickened considerably. This will take about an hour, more if you can spare it. This is mostly unattended cooking, just take peak every now and again and give the sauce a stir.  If it seems to be dry, stir in a little water.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta until al dente. Reserve a cup or so of the pasta cooking water and drain the pasta. Add it to the pot with the sauce, adding in some of the cooking water if necessary. Season with salt and pepper and serve, passing cheese on the side. Serves 4 very hungry eaters or 5-6 with smaller appetites.

Be sure to cook with, and drink, a delicious Chianti. I most often serve this with crusty bread, unsalted butter or extra virgin olive oil for dipping and not much else. If I am feeling ambitious I might make a green salad dressed with nothing more than salt, pepper, good balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

Mangia bene tutti! Joy


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