My old friend Art Riccio could weave stories about his “from-scratch” sauces… hours in the making, putting to shame anything pre-made. It’s a bit intimidating to have a buddy (who I have known since 7th grade) who watched his parents (and maybe grandparents and assorted aunts and uncles) prepare homemade sauces and, as a result, is intimately connected to the process of creating insanely good sauces.
Me? I was looking for something to do on an afternoon. This is definitely a “day off” activity… any short-changing of the time it takes to naturally reduce and thicken the sauce will produce a meek version lacking character and depth.
Besides… the patience and care in the preparation, the emerging aromas in the kitchen, the periodic inspection and stirring the pot and the relaxed approach to time offers an excellent opportunity to enjoy a martini or two… occasionally dipping in a chunk of bread to more accurately test the developing sauce.
What could be better?
Wine? From my personal portfolio of café/bistro wines I have selected a red from the Southern Rhône. I could have just as easily chosen a Primitivo from Puglia, a Montepulciano from Abruzzo, a blend from the Languedoc, a country red from Portugal… or a country red just about from any of the main wine producing regions of the world! What do these wines share in common? Good fruit, dry finish with an exceptional palate cleansing level of acidity — which is why the wines work so well with food! Think about the type of dishes that we would enjoy if we traveled thru Europe and dined at a small bistro or café – a place where the décor maybe nothing special, nor the place settings particularly grand, and yet the food would be well prepared “comfort” type of plates and the “local” wine would always hit the perfect notes regardless of what was ordered. Further, these reds are usually served slightly chilled. And yes, Mongettes is perfect a little chill & would also be a great “cross over” red to salmon, swordfish and other robust seafood dishes like paella. Also veal & poultry dishes (and a good choice for the Thanksgiving table!)
Château les Mongettes ’11 (Costières de Nîmes, France)
Some of the most pleasurable wines for “every day drinking” come from the South of France. Vineyards that stretch along the Mediterranean from the Spanish frontier, to the Italian Rivera and trace a path up the Rhône Valley, and produce some of the world’s best drinking wines. Invariably these wines are a blend of Rhône varietals, and have many of the same flavor attributes of Châteauneuf du Pape; but are less costly! This wine is a blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre from the Domaine’s vineyards situated in the southeast of Nîmes. A very easy-going wine with plenty of red berry fruits, anis, a touch of spice and a lovely long, fine dry finish.
6 ounces of Tanqueray Gin
½ ounce of Noilly Pratt Dry Vermouth
A goodly amount of ice
4 blue cheese stuffed olives
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 ounces bacon or pancetta, diced
1 ½ cups chopped yellow onions
¾ cup diced carrots
¾ cup diced celery
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
2 bay leaves
½ teaspoon dried thyme
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 pound ground beef or ground veal
½ pound pork sausage, removed from the casings, or ground pork
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup red wine
2 (14 ½-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes and their juice
1 (14 ½-ounce) can tomato sauce
1 cup beef or chicken stock or broth
2 teaspoons sugar
¼ cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 pound spaghetti
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
- Put gin and vermouth into a glass pitcher, fill with ice, stir vigorously while incanting, “You who know all, thank you for providing us juniper and all the other obscure ingredients responsible for creating this sacred liquid!” Strain into a pre-frozen Martini glass of admirable size. Skewer the olives on one of those tacky cocktail swords, place in glass. Immediately begin consuming. Now you can begin the food prep, and the cooking!
- 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.)
Don’t let the long list of ingredients throw you off the track. It’s time consuming; but it ain’t hard. This recipe is from a version that Emeril Lagasse used in a Food Network segment in 2004. The cook time of 2 hours and 20 minutes runs less then many recipes I found. Still, leisurely in its pace, it is miles more time for any other dish I have made not done in a slow cooker. The prep time of 30 minutes is nearly half of what I need (I am notoriously slow and it troubles me not). I made three adjustments to his recipe. I cut his cinnamon and nutmeg in half based on many comments from reviewers of the recipe. For the meat I used a meatloaf mixture (pork, beef & veal combination). And lastly, I used linguine instead of spaghetti. The recipe is as it appears in the Food Network site.