Friday, July 26, 2013
I LOVE bolognese. Love. One can almost describe it as a love affair. A lifelong love affair. Nothing is more comforting than swirling your fork into the plate to grab a forkful of spaghetti noodles that has been soaked in the tang of tomato paste, the aromatics of oregano and basil, and the umami of.....fish sauce. Yes, you read that right. I use fish sauce in my bolognese.
I'm extremely picky when it comes to Italian food, especially spaghetti or bolognese. I have yet to find a place that will pass for satisfactory. I've tried everything from chain restaurants, to high end, to hole in the wall restaurants. Meh.
Enter Venice, Italy.
A few years ago while in Italy, we dined at a small restaurant near the Grand Canal. For the life of me I cannot remember which restaurant it is. Yes, for shame. Anyway, I had been sulking over the lack of satisfying bolognese in Rome and Florence. I wasn't expecting much from this little trattoria. One bite later, however, I was delirious with excitement. HEAVENS! What in the world did the chef put into this marvelous plate of goodness?! I was so distracted by the delicious explosion of flavors on my taste buds that the view of the Grand Canal and the fact that I was on my honeymoon ceased to exist at that moment. (Sorry Hubby) When I inquired, I was told the secret was the fact that they use anchovies in the sauce to get that umami flavor.
Anchovies? Um, hello? That's what fish sauce is made out of: fermented anchovies. After that, it was on to experimenting with fish sauce. After a few tweaks, I also discovered using Chardonnay yields an aromatic sauce that I prefer much much more than red wine. The result? Well, here's what fellow foodie from Insatiably Epicurious had to say:
"I have had several versions of Bolognese both homemade and restaurant quality. Neither of which piqued my interest until my fellow foodie Ms. T (grudgingly) passed along her recipe. Not only did it include a generous amount of Chardonnay (not a red!) but contained fish sauce. I was intrigued. I am the first to admit I fail miserably in following directions. As such, I've tweaked her original version a bit. It's meaty, robust in flavor, and the Chardonnay gives it such a wonderful aroma. This is easily my new favorite pasta sauce."
Many MANY thanks to Insatiably Epicurious for practically twisting my arm to get me to memorialize my FIRST recipe. What a snowball effect that had!
Without further ado, here is the recipe:
Mirepoix: 3 carrots, 3 celery ribs, 1 yellow onion, all diced then processed in a food processor
5 cloves of garlic
1 lb ground beef
1 lb ground pork
5 slices of bacon, diced
1/2 bottle of Chardonnay
1 tsp of fresh thyme
8 oz of tomato paste
1 can of 14 oz of fire roasted tomatoes
3 bay leaves
1/4 cup of heavy cream
1 lb of spaghetti noodles (or any other desired pasta), cooked accordingly to instructions
1. In a dutch oven, fry the bacon to the desired level of doneness. Remove bacon and place on a paper towel. Reserve 2 tabsp of the bacon fat.
2. Brown the mirepoix in the bacon fat. Make sure all water evaporates.
3. Add the ground meat and ground pork and brown. Season with 1 tbsp of fish sauce.
4. Add the tomato paste and brown, thoroughly mixing with the ground meat.
5. Add the Chardonnay. Cook until wine reduces nearly completely.
6. Add the fire roasted tomatoes. Stir to mix.
7. Add the bacon.
8. Add enough water so that it covers the meat.
9. Add thyme, bay leaves, and 1.5 tbsp of fish sauce. Bring to boil then reduce to simmer. Ideally, simmer for 3 hours but you can get away with 1 hour.
10. Towards the end, add the heavy cream.
Italians will then add the pasta directly into the bolognese sauce so that the sauce absorbs into the pasta.
Garnish with basil.