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

Green bean and Chickpea “Stew”

Chickpeas to me is comfort food.  My father’s side of the family being Egyptian/Syrian/Turkish, I have grown up eating this grain and it is a staple in my diet.  A couple of months ago I received my favorite magazine in the mail, Saveur, and I came across this recipe.

Initially, I wasn’t sure that I was going to like it.  Generally I like my vegetables barely cooked, fresh and crispy.  But this article praised slow cooked veggies.  I figured I would give it a try, thinking that I wasn’t going to be that thrilled with it.  What a surprise!  I fell in love with it.  It is really simple, flavourful, and the one word that comes to mind, is comforting.  It was so reminiscent of the flavour profiles that I grew up with, that instantly I knew I was going to make this dish again and again.

It is quite heavy on the cumin, which I love, but the original recipe calls for an hour of cooking time.  I reduced that to 35 minutes, because I wanted more tomato sauce than Saveur’s.  This is a perfectly simple and delicious meal that can be enjoyed on it’s own with a loaf of crusty bread, à la girl in a food frenzy’s.  But you can always have it as a side dish as well, with something simple, like grilled fish or steak.

So here’s what you’re going to need:

Adapted from Saveur Magazine

SERVES 4-6

INGREDIENTS

¼ cup olive oil

2 tsp. cumin seeds

4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tbsp. tomato paste
1 tbsp. paprika
1 ½ lb. green beans, strings removed
1 28-oz. can whole, peeled tomatoes with juice, crushed by hand
1 15-oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Heat the oil in an 8-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat; add cumin seeds and cook, stirring often, until fragrant, about 1 minute.

2. Add the garlic and onion, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring often, until soft and lightly browned, about 12 minutes.
3. Add the tomato paste and paprika, and cook, stirring occasionally, until tomato paste is lightly caramelized, about 2 minutes. Add the green beans, tomatoes, chickpeas, and 3 cups water, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until very tender, about 35 minutes. Let sit for at least 15 minutes before serving to allow the flavors to meld.