From Terrence Gallivan and Seth Siegal-Gardner, via Tasting Table
Remember the old “Letter to the Editor” column in newspapers? If someone felt strongly enough about an article, or perhaps was displeased with the author, they could meticulously construct a letter on the topic, send it to the publisher, and maybe, just maybe, see it appear in print a few weeks later. Yeah, that was cute, but a little too delayed for this generation. In a world of instant gratification, we now have the raucous and, at times, extremely comical “comments” section below virtually all online sources of news or information. For those of us who now use the internet as their primary source for news, we are well aware that this section is often the best part of the story – misinformed Joe Schmoes mouthing off about whatever is on their mind. Well, lest you think this sort of debate is limited to news articles, mosey on over to pompous recipe site, Tasting Table. John and I adore Tasting Table because their recipes tend to be complex, but virtually always worth every step and exotic ingredient. Apparently some of the other foodie readers would disagree. This bolognese was nothing short of ripped to shreds by a handful of extremely angsty readers. According to them, bolognese should never be this complicated, should contain barely any tomatoes, and, most fervently, should never, ever, contain bologna. The bologna-hater went on to explain to readers’ small, confused brains, that “bolognese” refers to a region in Italy, not the luncheon meat made famous by Mr. Mayer. Thanks dude.
Considering that not a single one of the haters appeared to have actually tried making the recipe, we pushed on undeterred. And haters-be-damned, this was one of the best recipes we’ve ever made. Certainly the best pasta sauce ever, and we have made a lot of pasta sauces. We even served it with whole grain noodles, the taste and texture of which I’m still trying to get used to, and the dish didn’t suffer one bit. The only bad part is that the sauce already looks amazing after about 30 minutes of simmering, but you absolutely need to hold out for the full 2 hours. By the end it’s so thick, with the flavors so densely concentrated, it is 100% worth the wait. Our biggest regret was not making a double batch to freeze. And perhaps that I never got around to writing a flagrant pro-bologna comment on Tasting Table.
- 1/2 tsp whole peppercorns
- 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
- 1 whole star anise
- 2 fresh basil leaves
- 1 sprig fresh thyme
- 1/4 tsp dried oregano
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/2 lb ground lamb (or pork)
- 1/2 lb bologna (we used Applegate Farms brand), chopped into small pieces
- 0.15 lb prosciutto end, optional (totally not necessary, but when we were looking for the bologna we discovered that when the deli at Whole Foods gets to the end of a chunk of prosciutto they wrap it up and sell the nubbin for mere pennies – we paid 75 cents for a 0.15 lb hunk of pure fatty flavor)
- 2 celery stalks, very finely chopped
- 3/4 of a yellow onion, very finely chopped
- 1/2 of a carrot, very finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
- 1/2 of a medium shallot, very finely chopped
- 1/2 cup dry red wine
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 1 Tbsp fish sauce
- 1 (28-oz) can crushed tomatoes
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated
- 1 pound pasta of choice (we used whole grain rotini)
- Set a large pot over medium heat. Add the peppercorns, fennel and star anise. Cook, stirring often, until the fennel seeds are golden, about 2-3 minutes.
- Place spices, along with basil leaves, thyme, oregano and bay leaf in a double layered square of cheesecloth. Fold up ends and tie bundle off with a piece of butcher’s twine. Set aside.
- Heat olive oil over medium-high heat, in the same pot you used for the spices. Add the lamb, bologna and prosciutto hunk (if using), and use a wooden spoon to break up the meat. Cook, stirring often, until meat is browned, about 10-12 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the meat to a bowl. Set aside.
- To the same pot, still over medium-high heat, add the celery, onion, carrot, garlic, shallot. Cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are caramelized, about 6-8 minutes.
- Return meat to pot and add red wine, stirring as you pour the wine in to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot.
- Stir in the red wine vinegar and fish sauce and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is reduced by half, about 8-10 minutes.
- Add the crushed tomatoes along with their juices, cream, milk and bundle of herbs and spices. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 hours.
- When sauce is almost done, cook your pasta in a large pot of salted water.
- Stir cheese into sauce. Taste, and season with salt if needed. Discard spice bundle and hunk of prosciutto (if using).
- Serve over pasta.
Note: The green stuff in the picture is a pistachio gremolata, which was good, but not entirely necessary. Recipe here if you’d like it, or you could always use basil pesto for a pop of freshness.