Tuesday, February 22, 2011

I Try Bolongese Sauce And Homemade Pasta: Is There An Award For Honorary Italians? (Er, That'd Be Me)

I know I'm not Italian but I've eaten in enough Italian restaurants over the years to at least earn an honorary title. I thought I knew most of the dishes, at least the most common ones, and I've made quite a few over the years. Today, I though I'd try Bolognese Sauce which I thought was regular red sauce mixed with chopped sirloin. Surprise! It's way more than just a mere meat sauce.

My other plan today was to make my own pasta. With purcased semolina flour and the barest of recipes, I set out to make manicotti stuffed with a mix of ricotta and mozzarella cheeses, topped with the bolongese sauce.

Making pasta wasn't that hard. I followed the instructions on the package of Hogson's Mills Semolina flour http://www.hodgsonmill.com/about/  and not having a pasta machine, I got a great upper body workout rolling out the dough to a very thin consistancy. I chose manicotti mostly because I didn't need to make thin cuts of pasta (though I did so with the extra) and was pleased with the results. I also didn't have a pasta drying rack but my multiple pants hanger, covered with parchment paper, worked just as well.

The bolognese sauce was another matter though it turned out great in the end but what I thought was a simple mix of meat and sauce turned out to be more involved than that. In fact, when the sauce first came into being in Bologna, Italy in the 5th century, tomatoes weren't even in the recipe. What is standard, is the mix of ground meats: pork and veal and the inclusion of milk in the sauce. I used neither and I thought it came out fine. I based my recipe on the one below from the Luna Cafe in Portland, Oregon. I've included their website because it was a good one and you can see the changes I made. Here is my adjusted Bolongnese Sauce.

My Unauthentic (But Nevertheless Delicious) Bolognese Sauce
¼ cup cold-pressed (extra-virgin) olive oil
2 large onions, chopped (4 cups chopped)
2-3 stalks of celery finely chopped
2-3 carrots, chopped (1 cup chopped)
4-6 cloves garlic, minced or pressed (2 tablespoons minced)
2 teaspoons dried crumbled basil
2 teaspoons dried crumbled oregano
1½ pound ground beef
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 cup dry red or white wine
four 14½-ounce cans petite diced tomatoes in juice
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1-2 teaspoons sugar, if necessary
¼ cup minced fresh parsley


  • In a large stovetop casserole, heat the olive oil, and sauté the onions and carrots over medium-low heat until softened but not browned, about 15 minutes.
  • Add the garlic, basil, oregano, and continue cooking without browning for 2-3 minutes.
  • Raise the heat and add the ground meat. Sauté, stirring and crumbling the meat, until the meat is well browned.Drain any excess oil from the skillet.
  • Add the balsamic vinegar and reduce to almost no liquid.
  • Add the wine if using and reduce by half.
  • Add the tomatoes and simmer slowly, partially covered for about 45 minutes, until most, but not all, of the moisture has evaporated.
  • Taste, then season with salt, pepper, and sugar if necessary.
  • Remove from the heat and stir in the parsley.

Makes 4 cups sauce.

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