Hello there! Remember us? Well one of our New Year’s resolutions here in the shoebox is to get our blogging frequency back up to a respectable level. It will be tough (even as I type this, our seven month old is trying to dive head first into the keyboard), but we are determined!
So now that January is here and we’ve had enough turkey and beef tenderloin to last us for a while, we thought this weekend that we’d turn to a different kind of comfort food. Thanks to the inspiration of our cousins in St. Louis, Paul and Emily, we’ve grown to really like a good bolognese sauce. The particular bolognese sauce they prepared for us was so complex and diverse in flavors, contained four different types of meat including pork belly, and was – in a word – unforgettable. They gave us a copy of the cookbook from which the recipe was taken (Frank Stitt’s Bottega Favorita, a beautiful book which we have only begun to sink our teeth into), and my dad and I made it over the Christmas holidays in Augusta. It was a labor of love, indeed, but completely worth it.
But we wanted something a little less involved on a lazy Saturday night, so Ina’s voice called from our pile of cookbooks to answer our craving.
Beef Bolognese with Orecchiette (from Ina Garten’s How Easy Is That?, with slight modifications)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for pasta
- 1.5 pounds lean ground beef (Ina calls for just 1 pound, but we wanted our sauce meatier – this is where you can get creative and mix up your meats – adding pork is always a good choice)
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 1/4 cups dry red wine
- 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more for pasta
- 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
- 1 cinnamon stick, halved (this is not in Ina’s recipe, but was in our cousins’ bolognese, and we just love the subtle complexity this adds)
- 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped and divided into two equal portions (this is twice as much as Ina uses, but we like to stir another handful of basil in just before plating)
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
- 1 pound oreccheitte (or small shells, or fettucini)
Heat the olive oil in a large (12-inch) skillet or saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the ground beef and cook, crumbling the meat with a wooden spoon, until meat has started to brown. Stir in the garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes and cook for another minute. Pour 1 cup of the wine into the pan and stir to scrape up any browned bits. Add the tomatoes, paste, salt, and pepper, stirring until combined. Bring to a boil then lower the heat and let simmer for about 10 minutes.
While the sauce is simmering, go ahead and starting bringing your water for the pasta to a boil in a large pot. Be sure to add a tablespoon of salt and splash of olive oil to the water.
After the sauce has simmered for about 10 minutes, add the nutmeg, cinnamon, half the basil, cream, and the remaining 1/4 cup of wine to the sauce. Simmer 15 – 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thickened. You’ll want to start cooking your pasta when you’re sauce is just about to your desired thickness. Cook the pasta until al dente.
Fully drain your pasta and then stir all of it into your sauce, along with the 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan and remaining basil. We like to grate large slices of Parmesan on the top after plating.
This dish is stick-to-your-ribs meets gourmet Italian. Translation: comfort food that will make you raise your eyebrows.
The spice combinations in this sauce are just spectacular. The heartiness of the beef is brought to life by the slight sweetness of the tomatoes, the complexity of the wine (we used cabernet), the tiny kick from the pepper, and the almost Fall-like notes from the cinnamon and nutmeg that play quietly but noticeably in the background. As Anne said, “It would make a good dinner party entree: interesting enough for the women, but hearty enough for the men.” As much as I wanted to be insulted by this statement, I couldn’t help but agree.
Thanks, Ina. And thanks, Paul and Emily, for introducing us to another page in the book of fine Italian dining.