My friend Stacy had the good fortune of living in Italy for nine years *sigh*. During that time she studied the language, took cooking lessons and traveled throughout the country. She, and my friends at School Amici, are my local resources for all things Italian. Recently, a new Italian restaurant opened in the charming, artsy Cincinnati suburb of O’Bryonville called Enoteca Emila. Although her first visit to Enoteca was without me (coincidently I’d dined there and had left for Italian class just 10 minutes before she arrived), Stacy reported that their Pappardelle Bolognese was the most authentic she’d encountered in the States. Having never eaten Bolognese before, I thought it would be fun to try to make it at home. Stacy had explained how this meat sauce was a blend of several kinds of meat – beef, pork, veal, pancetta, but even in my Italian cookbooks, I found only all-beef recipes. Then on Friday, the latest edition of Cook’s Illlustrated arrived with a multi-meat Bolognese recipe. Kismet? So on Saturday, Stacy and I tested the Cook’s Illustrated recipe to see if it came close to the real thing.
Reading over the ingredients, it really sounds like a heart attack on a plate: ground beef, ground veal, ground pork, pancetta, mortadella and chicken livers with fresh sage, a soffritto, tomato paste, red wine, and chicken and beef broths. But it was a crisp, cool autumn day just begging for a hearty dinner.
Let’s get this party started!
Step 1: Open a nice bottle of red. Pour.
Steps 2 through 6: We sautéed the grounds meats in olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium high heat until all liquid was absorbed about 10-15 minutes. The pancetta and mortadella, minced together in a food processor, were added and cooked for another 5-7 minutes. We opted out of the chicken livers. Next the soffritto was combined with the meat and cooked another five minutes; then the tomato paste was stirred in and cooked until the mixture was rust colored. The red wine, then the broths (combined with unflavored gelatin) were stirred in. The whole process took about 30 minutes. Then the sauce was covered and simmered for 90 minutes.
Step 7: While Stacy tended the sauce, I made the pappardelle, a 3/4 inch-wide fettucini-style flat noodle, using a standard fresh pasta recipe. Because this pasta is so wide, it makes the perfect platform to really hold onto the sauce. Plus, it looks very dramatic.
Step 8: Sauce must simmer, pasta must rest. So too shall the cooks with another glass of red and a small plate of snacks: fresh asparagus wrapped in prosciutto then quickly sautéed until the prosciutto is golden and crispy; smokehouse almonds; picholine olives; and DLM’s gigande beans with roasted red peppers in a vinaigrette.
Step 9: Cook the pasta until al dente, then combine with sauce and cook for another minute or two. Top with freshly grated Parmesan Reggiano and serve with a nice bottle of red and warm, crusty bread. Stacy brought an extremely yummy 1995 Nelson Estate Merlot, and some fruity liquors in cute little bottles to celebrate once the kitchen was restored to order (no easy task, that one).
Step 10: Sleep this one off.
Was this the real thing? You betcha…real pasta, real Bolognese, real headache in the morning.