Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Bolognese Sauce

I know I've mentioned it multiple times before, but I'm continually astounded by the extreme stubbornness of my children. They are all so bull headed and are continually in battle with me or one another over something extremely silly. Every time I go to the store, the kids fight over who gets to push the button that activates the automatic door system and the slowest child who misses (normally her) chance to have the privilege and prestige of slapping the button ends up wailing and crying about the injustice of the situation for the first 15 minutes of our trip. It's so lovely and never fails to put all of us in the finest of moods.

I can definitely say without hesitation that one of my children is far worse than the others when it comes to having conniptions or meltdowns over silly matters. Undoubtedly, that child is Emma. That girl has had my nerves on edge for over six months now and I have no idea how I can survive another six months of the whining, the crying, the fits, the fights. Matthew and Lucy will be playing perfectly nicely together and then Emma will come upon the scene and soon enough all three of them will be in tears. She seems to thrive on conflict and will probably not rest until my head is completely covered with grey hair.

Emma's stubborness never shines brighter than at the dinner table. Each night, Paul and I spend quite a bit of time making a nice, homecooked meal. We sit down to a nicely set table and Paul nearly always sets the mood for our meal by playing classical piano music over the speakers. The peace normally lasts for about four minutes before the whining commences.

"I don't like that!"
"This looks so gross!"
"I am never going to eat this for dinner. Never ever ever!"

All direct quotes. All from Emma. Without hesitation, she will always complain about whatever we are serving for dinner. And, for the last few weeks, she had been voluntarily going to bed two hours early rather than be subjected to the swill I had chosen to serve her for dinner.

Finally, Paul had had enough of her early bedtimes out of pure defiance and set his foot down, declaring that she would be sitting at the dinner table until she ate. Sure enough, two hours after dinnertime when the other two kids were getting dressed for bed, Emma was still sitting there. She still had yet to take a bite. Paul wrapped her plate up in plastic wrap and told her that she would be eating it for breakfast. The next morning, breakfast came and Emma still refused to eat. She also refused to eat it for lunch. Finally, at dinnertime, she decided she had had enough and finished off her leftovers, groaning and moaning through each bite.

What does all this have to do with Bolognese Sauce? Well, this seems to be the dinner that has broken Emma's dinnertime protests. I made this for our Sunday night dinner and sat down to eat fully expecting another barrage of complaints. However, they never came. Not only did they never come, but my normally whiny child asked for a second HUGE serving. We had the leftovers the next day and she again ate a gigantic serving, singing my praises the entire time. I think we might have found Emma's new favorite meal.

And the girl is right, because this is good, hearty comfort food. Traditionalists will be so angry at me for messing with this beloved recipe from Marcella Hazen, but I couldn't help but add garlic and a few other seasonings to her original recipe because I can't imagine a pasta sauce without it. I know bolognese is truly a bare-bones meat sauce, relying on the flavors of the beef, wine, and milk to carry the sauce and I know I totally maimed it by adding additional ingredients to this base but I truly couldn't help it. Please don't crucify me. The resulting meal was so delicious, so filling, and so comforting that I have no regrets. Plus, it bought me two nights of dinners where everyone was completely happy with what was served. I'll take it!

Bolognese Sauce
adapted from Marcella Hazen via The New York Times

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 tablespoons butter plus 1 tablespoon for tossing the pasta
1 cup chopped onion
2/3 cup chopped celery
2/3 cup chopped carrot
3/4 pound ground beef chuck
3/4 pound ground pork
4 large cloves garlic, minced
1-2 tablespoons dried Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Black pepper, ground fresh from the mill
1 cup whole milk
A few generous pinches of ground nutmeg
1 cup dry white wine
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 ¼ to 1 ½ pounds pasta, for serving
Freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese, for serving

Heat oil and butter in a large Dutch oven or skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, celery and carrots and cook for a few minutes, until the onions is translucent. Make a well in the center of the mixture, and then add in the ground beef and pork. Throw in a generous amount of salt and pepper and cook for a few minutes until brown, gradually stirring it into the vegetable mixture. Add the minced garlic and seasonings and cook for an additional minute until very fragrant.

Add milk and let it simmer gently, stirring frequently, until it has bubbled away completely. Add a few pinches -- about 1/8 teaspoon total -- of nutmeg, and stir.

Add the wine, let it simmer until it has evaporated, then add the tomatoes and stir thoroughly to coat all ingredients well. When the tomatoes begin to bubble, turn the heat down so that the sauce cooks at the laziest of simmers, with just an intermittent bubble breaking through to the surface. Cook, uncovered, for 3 hours or more, stirring from time to time. Taste and adjust seasonings to suit your tastes.

Serve over hot, freshly cook pasta with plenty of Parmesan cheese for serving.

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