Monday, January 7, 2008

Italian meat sauce -- super quick or super slow

I have been a big fan of Marcella Hazan's book that I stole. Her meat sauce requires some patience but the result is a really mellow, smooth sauce.

The meat sauce is perfect with fresh angel hair pasta or use it in the polenta bake or lasagne.

If you don't have time to make Marcella Hazan's awesome meat sauce, I usually simmer a good store bought sauce to fake it. It tastes intense and home-made as long as you simmer it down to reduce the sauce. Here's what I do:

Sautee one cup of ground beef and one cup of mild Italian sausage.
Combine it with one jar of Rao's Marinara sauce or Romano's Marinara Sauce.
Add 1-2 tablespoons sugar and fresh ground pepper (Rao's sauce is especially tart, so I'd definitely use the sugar).
Simmer over low heat with the lid partially open (or what I sometimes do is put a splatter screen over it) until sauce is reduced by 1/4 or at least when the meat sauce is very thick.
Throw away the jars before guests arrive.

If you fancy yourself an Italian grandma, here is Hazan's recipe:

Bolognese Meat Sauce

1 Tbs vegetable oil
3 Tbs butter
1/2 C. chopped onion
2/3 C. chopped celery
2/3 C. chopped carrot
3/4 pound ground beef chuck
1 C. whole milk
1/8 tsp. grated nutmeg
1 C. dry white wine
1 1/2 C canned Italian plum tomatoes, cut in with their juice
freshly graded parmigiano-reggiano cheese

1. Put oil and butter in a pot with chopped onion. Turn heat on to medium. Cook and stir onion until translucent. Add chopped celery and carrot. Cook for 2 minutes more, stirring the vegetables to coat them well.

2. Add ground beef, a large pinch of salt, and a few grindings of pepper. Break up the meat and stir well, cooking until the beef has lost its raw, red color.

3. Add the milk and let simmer gently, stirring frequently, until it has bubbled away completely. This can take a while. Add the 1/8 tsp of grated nutmeg and stir.

4. Add the wine and let simmer until it has evaporated. This can take a while. Add tomatoes and stir thoroughly to coat all ingredients. When the tomatoes begin to bubble, turn heat down so that the sauce cooks at the laziest simmer with ocassional bubbles breaking. Cook uncovered for 3 hours or more, stirring from time to time. If the sauce begins to dry out and the fat separates from the meat, add 1/2 C of water to keep it from sticking to the pot. At the end, however, no water should remain and the fat must be separate from the sauce. Taste and correct for salt.

Hazan says you can use 1 part pork to 2 parts beef for a tastier sauce.

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