Celeste says with laughter, “she wanted ambrosia!”
We finished watching The Help, and while wiping away tears and relishing in the story, Celeste, Liz and I marveled at all of the food featured in the movie. When ambrosia was mentioned, we laughed and turned up our noses. Ambrosia is a jell-o recipe, featuring cool whip and canned fruits. It was popular in the 50’s and 60’s but has since fallen out of favor.
“Of course,” says Liz, “who wants to eat processed food anymore?”
It’s so true. I’m happy to say many of us have mature taste-buds that yearn for real food made from real ingredients instead of artificial colors and flavorings. I thought about this as I stood over my stovetop today, stirring a bolognese sauce.
When the weather cools down, I break out my cast iron enamel casserole pot to make hearty soups, meaty stews and flavorful sauces. These are recipes that call for slow-cooking: lots of simmering and stirring, while filling the house with the most wonderful aromas.
Classic bolognese sauce typically mixes ground meat with prosciutto, wine, tomatoes and milk. Authentic recipes also include sauteed chicken livers which add a certain richness to the sauce. In my version, I keep the wine, tomatoes and milk, but substitute economical strips of bacon for the prosciutto and use Italian styled sausages to flavor the sauce.
I let the sauce simmer and reduce for at least 90 minutes. When the cooking is finished I like to enjoy the sauce over large rigatoni noodles. Because I love adding vegetables to pasta dishes, I often place a layer of roasted acorn or butternut squash with the noodles then top with the sauce. During summer, yellow or green squash works well, but since bell peppers are currently at their peak, a quick pan saute of orange and yellow peppers is quite delicious.
This sauce freezes well, but in my house, it’s gone within days. Mangia!
Bolognese alla Chris
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 strips of thick-cut bacon, diced
1 small yellow onion, small dice
3 carrots, peeled and finely diced
3 celery ribs, fine dice
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 pound ground chuck
1 pound fresh Italian sausages, mild, casings removed
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
1 cup milk
1 cup chicken stock
1 28 ounce can pureed tomatoes
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
2 bay leaves
Salt and Pepper to taste
1. Heat a large dutch oven over medium high heat with the olive oil. Add the bacon and allow to brown. Add the onions, garlic, carrots and celery. Sweat the vegetables but do not brown, about 2-4 minutes.
2. Add the meats. Using a wooden spoon or heat resistant spatula, break up the meat until it has crumbled and cook through, about 6 minutes. Be sure to combine the meats well. Drain grease if desired.
3. Once the meat has browned, add the wine. Bring to a simmer and allow to cook for two minutes. Add the chicken stock and the milk and stir well to combine. Stir in the tomato puree then add the bay leaves and Italian seasonings. Lower heat to medium and allow to simmer, un-covered, for an hour, stirring every 10 minutes or so.
4. Lower the heat even more. Add salt and pepper to taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. The sauce should reduce to become very thick. Simmer for an additional 30 minutes. Serve over vegetables and rigatoni noodles if desired.