So starts the first in my many cooking endeavors of the year! As I said earlier this year, I want to take some of the dishes I highlighted in 2012 for their national food holidays and actually cook them for 2013. I’m an amateur cook with a Farberware pot set, a gas stove, and a slow cooker, and a passion for making delicious foods. (I also have an immersion blender and holy cats I love it.) When available, I want to make the recipe directly from the restaurant I recommended last year, but when I can’t find that, I’ll take an “authoritative” recipe for the same dish (“authoritative,” meaning, I’ve heard of that chef before, and perhaps they have a TV show that I like.) Granted, I won’t be making everything, because either the recipe is above my cooking skill level (no Baked Alaska from me, folks), the ingredients will be too rare or costly for my food budget (National Caviar Day may have to wait till next paycheck…), or I just plain don’t want to make it. The Clinton Street Baking Co. has a great recipe for their world-famous blueberry pancakes for National Blueberry Pancake Day, but I hate blueberries, so that recipe will be left aside–perhaps for you to make instead!

So, for the first week of 2013, I celebrated with a classic sauce that I made for the first time! Last Friday, January 4th, was National Spaghetti Day, and I had recommended a restaurant called Lamarca Pasta for their exceptional Spaghetti Bolognese. Bolognese sauce, so named because it originated from Bologna, Italy, is a tomato sauce cooked with meat, usually beef or pork. Lamarca doesn’t have their recipe online, so I found a reputable chef to make a substitution: Emeril Lagasse’s Bolognese recipe on FoodNetwork.com. It’s a rather straightforward recipe with some great results, so I decided to try it out and let you know what I thought!

 

Spaghetti Bolognese
From Emeril Lagasse on Food Network.com

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 ounces bacon or pancetta, diced
1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onions
3/4 cup diced carrots
3/4 cup diced celery
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 pound ground beef or ground veal
1/2 pound pork sausage, removed from the casings, or ground pork
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup red wine
2 (14 1/2-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes and their juice
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can tomato sauce
1 cup beef or chicken stock or broth
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 pound spaghetti
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Directions:

In a large pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook, stirring, until browned and the fat is rendered, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the onions, carrots and celery and cook, stirring, until soft, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic, salt, pepper, bay leaves, thyme, oregano, cinnamon, and nutmeg and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add the beef and sausages, and cook, stirring, until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the wine and cook, stirring, to deglaze the pan and remove any browned bits sticking to the bottom of the pan, and until half of the liquid is evaporated, about 2 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and their juices, the tomato sauce, beef broth, and sugar and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, to keep the sauce from sticking to the bottom of the pan, until the sauce is thickened and flavorful, about 1 1/2 hours. Add the cream, butter, and parsley, stir well, and simmer for 2 minutes. Discard the bay leaves and adjust the seasoning, to taste. Remove from the heat and cover to keep warm until ready to serve.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and return the water to a low boil. Cook, stirring occasionally to prevent the noodles from sticking, until al dente, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain in a colander.

Add the pasta to the sauce, tossing to coat. Add 1/2 cup of the cheese and toss to blend. Divide among pasta bowls and serve with the cheese passed tableside. (Alternatively, toss only the desired portion of pasta with a bit of the sauce at a time in a serving bowl, reserving the remainder for another meal.)

 

My first and favorite step was slicing and cooking the bacon, because, well, bacon! You can’t say no to bacon 🙂 Some of these recipes I’m going to cut the ingredients proportionately to fit my ideal serving size of 4–because I don’t need a ton of leftovers hanging out in my fridge! But with the bolognese, I kept the recipe as it reads. You can never have enough meat sauce, and I gave half of the leftovers to my boyfriend after the dinner.

The bacon sizzling in my pot. This makes such a fragrant kitchen! Who needs air fresheners when you have bacon?

My mise en place of onions, garlic, celery, and carrots. (Can you tell that I’m getting the hang of this cooking blog and don’t really know what to take pictures of yet?) 😛

I did a few things differently from the recipe as shown. I used 80% ground beef for the meat of the sauce, and omitted the pork sausage because #1, my boyfriend is not a fan of Italian sausage due to the fennel used in most blends. And #2…three different types of meat in one sauce? Isn’t that a little bit excessive, Emeril?

I also used Marsala wine instead of red wine because it was what I had in my pantry at the time.

Once I added all of the ingredients and left the sauce to simmer, I noticed that there was a layer of orange grease on the top of my sauce. This could be caused by the rendered fat from the bacon, the high fat content of the ground meat I was using, or a combination of the two. I was disappointed with how greasy it was! And that added liquid made the sauce quite thin. I omitted the heavy cream as I didn’t want to add any more liquid to an already liquid-y sauce.

Here is the finished product–the bolognese sauce sitting atop a bed of Ronzoni Smart Start spaghetti. BF liked the taste of the sauce, but I found it a little weird: the cinnamon and nutmeg flavors were quite evident in the sauce, and it was distracting me from all the other goodies to be found, like the bacon and the beef. Nothing should distract you from bacon and beef! I side-eyed the recipe when it told me to add those ingredients, but I did it anyway and kind of regretted it later. I was also surprised that the recipe called for such a small amount of oregano, as that’s the one spice I think of when I think about Italian tomato sauces. I don’t think my substitutions or omissions would have drastically changed the flavor of the sauce, so that wasn’t what turned me off to it.

What I’d Do Different Next Time:
– To keep the accuracy up for the recipe, I’d certainly make sure I had red cooking wine in the house before I started!
– I might lower or omit completely the cinnamon and nutmeg spices, because those were flavors I just didn’t enjoy in a bolognese sauce.
– I’ll use a leaner ground meat to minimize the amount of grease I get in the sauce.

While Emeril’s recipe gets extremely high marks on the Food Network website, I’d have to claim this recipe was a miss for me. While the sauce was hearty and filling, I just didn’t like the strange taste the cinnamon and nutmeg gave the sauce, and will probably look for another recipe the next time I try out a bolognese.

But don’t just take my word for it–try the recipe out yourself and see if you like Emeril’s Spaghetti Bolognese. Maybe even try it next year for National Spaghetti Day 😀

Tune in next Saturday as I post my second week’s national food holiday challenge–National Curried Chicken Day!

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