Ragu Alla Bolognese del mio Zio – Bolognese Sauce

Spaghetti Bolognese

Everybody has their own version of Bolognese, or Ragu as we call it in my house.  My recipe, handed down from three generations, stays true to my uncle Gianni’s version.  As I’ve mentioned before, my family is from Ferrara and Bologna, the food capital of Italy.  With such amazing products as Parmigiano, Mortadella, Balsamic Vinegar, Tortellini and Ravioli coming from my region, Emilia-Romagna, it indeed is a wonderful place to visit and have family!

One of my first food memories is Ragu, my mother made it every week, and when I met my uncle in 1986, I also tasted his version, passed down to him from his mother, who owned a restaurant in a little town outside of Bologna.  Cut to 26 years later, I now make it very often, because alas, it is my daughter’s favorite (along with Carbonara).  So needless to say, I can make this with my eyes closed.

There is something so comforting to me about Ragu.  Just the cooking process screams comfort, and time-honored tradition.  I like to use a mix of pork and veal, pancetta, and white wine.  And I let it simmer for three hours or more, if I have the time.  As my uncle explained to me, his mother taught him how to make this when he was 12 years old, and said, start out on a large flame, and keep moving it to smaller, and smaller flames so it can simmer delicately for hours.  And the smells wafting from the kitchen….divine.  For me, it always tastes better than next day, when the flavors have fully developed, but my daughter can’t wait to have it the moment it’s done.

Ragu Bolognese

It seems like a daunting long process, but actually, once you are done with the preparation, all you have to do is sit back and let it bubble, and just enjoy the warmth in your kitchen like I do.

Ragu alla Bolognese

2 slices pancetta, minced

2 tbsp olive oil

1 large onion, minced finely

1 large carrot, minced finely or grated

1 celery rib (0ptional….some people don’t like the taste) minced finely

1 heaping tbsp tomato paste

1 garlic clove, with skin

300 g ground veal (or 600 g ground veal if you don’t eat pork)

300 g ground pork

1 large glass white wine (if you don’t have white, or it’s really cold, you can add red)

425 ml pureed tomatoes

4 cups beef stock

Salt and Pepper to taste

In a large stock pot, over medium low heat, warm up your olive oil.  Add the pancetta, onion, carrot and celery (if using).  Add the salt and  cook for about 10-15 minutes, until softened and translucent.  Add the tomato paste, garlic and mix well.  Cook for another 5 minutes, to let it caramelize.  Add the veal and pork, raise the heat to high, and cook, stirring constantly to break it up and make sure it cooks through.  Add the wine, and let it reduce, stirring to remove all the brown bits, about 8-10 minutes.

When the wine is completely reduced, add the tomatoes and beef stock, mix well.  Let it come to a boil, let boil for about 5 minutes, and lower the heat to medium low, and cook covered for about 30 minutes.  Switch it to your lowest flame, uncover, and let simmer for about 3 hours, stirring occasionally making sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom.  Adjust the seasonings, and add the fresh cracked pepper.

Let cool and refrigerate overnight so that the flavors meld.  If you can’t wait, by all means, serve it up over your favorite pasta.  Mine is tagliatelle or pappardelle, but over spaghetti is perfect, or rigatoni.  It is also heavenly in Lasagna or cannelloni.  Or you can reduce it further to use it as a filling for ravioli, which would be the Brasato filling (braised beef).

 

From my zio’s kitchen to yours,

Carla

Zucchini Blossoms Stuffed with Ricotta, Bufala Mozarella, Pancetta and Pine Nuts

From my jobs last week, to whirlwind tour guide this week, I haven’t had a moment’s time to sit down and post a recipe until now, so sorry my friends.  You see, my aunt, uncle and their friend are here visiting for the first time, and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to show them around my beautiful city.  We’ve been traipsing through the Gothic Quarter, frolicking in Gaudi’s Park Guell, feasting on Paella by the azure Mediterranean, and last night sipping Margarita’s while watching the Spain vs. Portugal match!  But two nights ago they came to my house for dinner, and that same afternoon I had taken them to the Boqueria Market and had spotted some amazing Zucchini Blossoms.

I knew immediately I wanted to make something with them, stuff them actually, but I figured I would just play it by ear with what I had at home.  I decided I would stuff them with ricotta, mozzarella, the gorgeous pancetta that I had brought back from Italy and some pine nuts.  I also chopped the baby zucchini into tiny little pieces and mixed it all up.

It was DELICIOUS.  Like, mouth-watering, crazy insane delicious.  I only bought 7 blossoms.  Now I wish I had gotten 20.  I could have just had that for dinner!

This is a surprisingly easy preparation, that will be heavenly for dinner, lunch or canapes.  So, I hope you all try this soon, before these delicate blossoms are out of season again.

 

So here’s what you’re going to need:

Serves 4

8 zucchini blossoms

4 baby zucchini (the ones that come attached), finely chopped

1/4 cup pancetta, sliced thick and diced

2 tbsp pine nuts

salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup ricotta cheese

1 bufala mozzarella, chopped

1/4 cup olive oil

3 tbsp flour

1 egg

1 tbsp cold water

Slice off the zucchini blossoms, retaining a little bit of the zucchini at the base.  Carefully open the flower and remove the pistil.

In a small frying pan over medium heat, sauté the pancetta and zucchini until crisp.  Add the pine nuts and sauté for another 3 to 4 minutes.

Reserve in a bowl, and mix well with the ricotta and mozzarella.  Add salt and pepper.

In another large frying pan, heat the olive oil.  Meanwhile, place your cheese mixture in a pastry bag.

Stuff the blossoms with the cheese mixture, and then twist the ends of the petals to close.  Don’t twist too tight, they are quite delicate.  In another bowl mix the flour, egg and water.

Dip your blossoms in the batter and fry, about 1 minute each side.

Serve hot.

 

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

 

 

 

Tagliatelle pasta with Pancetta Romana, Zucchini and Pistachios

Obviously I got back from Italy yesterday…..and I felt like a kid at Christmas who can’t wait to unwrap their presents.  I did.  I ate some of the salami, the appenzeller cheese…..and last night absolutely had to try the pancetta.  I was *this* close to not buying it, but the vendor absolutely insisted I had to try it.  Ok, no he didn’t, he just said, do you want some pancetta too? (I was buying guanciale) And I was like….Yes please!

Actually, the dish came up as follows.  I arrive home, having left the fridge fully stocked for my boyfriend and my daughter, full of healthy veggies, cheese, eggs, yogurt, and some cake too.  When I opened up the fridge, the cheese and cake were almost finished.  The veggies untouched.  So, I thought, I need to make something with this zucchini.  So, I decided, tagliatelle, zucchini and pancetta.  Went to the store to get some fizzy water, and passed by the pistachios, and remembered how in Sicily, we used to eat the Pistachio pesto with pancetta.  Voila!  A star is born.  I think this is my new favorite pasta dish.  And I am urging my friend Miki and her boyfriend R to try this.  Because I think they will be as excited about this dish as I was last night.  I actually want some more today.  But although I tend to be obsessive about things, the rest of my household isn’t like that.

So, here’s what you’re going to need:

Serves 4

500g Tagliatelle

1 zucchini, sliced into thin ribbons

250 g pancetta, cut into thick match sticks

3 tbsp olive oil, more if the pasta is too dry

100 g pistachios, shelled and crushed.

Pepper to taste.

Parmesan cheese

Boil your water for the pasta.  In the meantime, in a large skillet fry up your bacon over medium heat with the olive oil.  When it is starting to brown, add the zucchini ribbons.  Saute for another 5 minutes, until softened but not mushy.  Add the pistachios and the rest of the olive oil.  Turn off heat.

When the pasta is done, drain it and toss it quickly with your pancetta mix, serve immediately with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

And you’re done!  So easy, so good.  You’ll want more I bet.  I did.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

Pancetta, Pear and Parmesan “Strudel”

 

 

Hello readers!

How was your weekend?  Mine was great, caught up with some friends who we hadn’t seen in 3 years, took them to a nice tapas restaurant, and then had some cocktails.  But anyhow, today I thought I would post an incredibly simple, yet ridiculously delicious cocktail dish or starter.  I made this a couple of weeks ago for a dinner party, and it was a hit.  So much so that I took an initial picture of it when I cut it open, but then I arranged the slices on a plate and put it on the table, went to get my camera….and *poof*.  They were gone.  Not all of them, because I had one, but the picture would have looked terrible.  So I only have the one picture that I don’t think does it any justice, but I think that by the ingredients you know it’s going to be good.  So go ahead and try it the next time you have guests over.  Or not.  You can definitely make it any time, since it is so easy.  So here goes!

Pancetta, Pear and Parmesan Strudel

1 package of Filo dough

3 Concorde pears, peeled and cut into match sticks

150 g of Pancetta

50 g Walnuts, coarsely chopped

60g of Parmesan cheese, grated

Salt and pepper to taste

2 tbsp of olive oil

4 tbsp of butter, melted

Poppy seeds for garnish

Pre-heat your oven to 350 deg F (180 C).  On your baking sheet, lay out your filo dough.  Start by placing the pancetta over the filo, overlapping the slices.  Then scatter the nuts over the pancetta.  Scatter the pears and parmesan, add the salt and pepper and drizzle your olive oil over the whole thing.

Roll it into a log, making sure that you seal the edges.  Brush the melted butter over the whole log, and sprinkle with poppy seeds.

Before you place it into the oven, it is incredibly useful if you cut the slices prior to cooking, cutting almost all the way through, but leave it intact on the bottom.  If not when it’s cooked and crispy, it will be almost impossible for you to cut it without losing half of the filo.  Trust me, I’ve tried it and cried.

Bake for 35-40 minutes, until it is gold and crispy.  Take it out of the oven and let it cool for about 20 minutes before serving, as it gets cooler the flavors meld together and it is delicious!

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla