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    Ragu alla Bolognese

    One of my all time favorite sauces for pasta is a rich bolognese. Originated in Bologna, Italy the traditional version incorporates beef with pancetta and according to Accademia Italiana della Cucina there is an official recipe that should be followed. My version however kicks it up a bit by mingling beef, veal and pork which to me creates a distinct taste and texture.

    One of basic items used is a basic battuto or you may have heard it called sofrito which is a simple combination of onion, carrot and celery, not unlike the French Mirepoix it’s used to give a sweet underlying flavor.

    As with some of my other recipes this one is great to make a large batch as it freezes well and can be used in a lasagna or as a gravy for pasta such as tagliatelle or rigatoni.

    You will need:

    Beef Chuck — One pound, ground to medium in a food processor, you can purchase pre-ground but I find the texture too smooth.
    Pork Shoulder — One pound, ground to medium in a food processor, again you can purchase pre-ground.
    Veal Shoulder — One pound, ground to medium or pre-ground. Alternatively you can use ground turkey
    Onion — One large sweet or about one cup, such as Walla Walla or Vidalia
    Carrot — Two large or about one cup
    Celery — three stalks or about one cup
    Garlic — Two cloves
    Tomato Paste — four TBSP
    White Wine — use a good dry such as Chardonnay, two cups
    Whole Milk &#151 Two cups
    Dried Oregano &#151 One TBSP
    Olive Oil &#151 Two TBSP
    Sea Salt/Pepper — Two tsp each

    Rough chop the onion, carrot and celery, place in a food processor and grind to a fine dice, set aside. In a large bowl place the beef, pork and veal/turkey and mix until well combined. Dice the pancetta to about ⅛” dice, set aside.

    Heat a sauté pan large enough to hold all of the protein to medium high add the olive oil. Sauté the meat(s) until most of the pink is gone. Remove the meat from the pan and strain out all of the juice left, set aside. In the same pan add the pancetta and sauté until crisp then add the battuto and sauté until translucent.

    If there isn’t enough fat left from the pancetta add a little olive oil. Make an opening in the center of the pan and add the crushed garlic, sauté until the garlic is just softened. Stir well to combine, make an opening in the center of the pan and add the tomato paste, sauté until it loosens up a bit and then stir all to combine. Return the meat to the pan, add the oregano and mix well, sauté until warmed through. Spread the meat out into a level layer and add the white wine. Cook through until the wine is dissipated add the milk and cook until most of the milk is gone. If there isn’t enough liquid in the sauce you can adjust with some pasta water.

    Serve immediately reserving some to cool and freeze for another day. Enjoy!

    Polpette (Meatballs)

    There is nothing better than homemade meatballs. Known as polpette in the Italian kitchen there are as many recipes available as there are stars in the sky. This is my version of the classic polpette.

    You will need:

    Two parts ground chuck
    One part ground pork
    One part ground veal or turkey*
    One part – stale bread (I used leftover Italian bread)
    Milk – enough to soak the bread
    Two cups shredded Parmesan cheese
    Large eggs – quantity depends on amount of meats used. Typically 2 large eggs is sufficient for four pounds of meat.
    Sea Salt/Fresh Ground Pepper
    Peanut or other low smoke oil.
    Flour

    Preparation:

    In a bowl large enough to hold all the ingredients place crumbled bread and milk with very clean hands work the bread and milk together until it comes to a semi-thick paste. Add the meats, eggs, salt/pepper and cheese and work together until everything is completely combined. Form the meat into balls, I use an ice cream scoop – I like mine large. As you finish each ball place on baking sheet until ready to cook. Dust balls lightly with flour.

    Heat skillet large enough to hold meatballs, don’t worry this step can be done in batches, add enough oil to go up to 1/4 the size of the meatballs. When oil starts to dance (shimmer) reduce heat and carefully place balls into oil with room in between each. With a slotted spoon move balls around making sure that all sides are browned equally. If cooking in batches put finished balls on a plate until all are completed.

    At this point they are ready to serve, however, I find that if you place them into a pot large enough to hold them all and add your favorite pasta sauce they take on a deep, rich flavor.

    Buon appetito!

    * The choice between veal and turkey is totally up to you. The taste between the two is relatively minor but the difference in structure might be evident as the veal has a higher fat content.

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