Nothing Says “Slow Down” Quite Like Hearty Bolognese

It’s been a while since I wrote. I’m sorry for that. I have lots of reasons as to why, but I won’t bore you with those right now. Instead, I’m going to share a favorite quote and reminder this holiday season. Oh, and I’m sharing my hearty Bolognese recipe, too, to demonstrate just how great slowing down can be.

Gandhi once said, “There is more to life than increasing its speed.” In a season that’s supposed to be marked with gratitude, giving, peace, hope and love, but instead is surrounded by messages of excess, hyper-consumerism and busy-ness, Gandhi’s quote is a good reminder for us all to slow down.

I’ll admit, I participate in the holiday frenzy, too. But trying to do everything faster or bigger only leaves me with icky feelings of inadequacy. It’s time to slow down, take in the moment, and make a big pot of meaty sauce that only gets better the longer it simmers. Patience, my friend. Patience.

IMG_0670Hearty Bolognese Over Egg Noodles

  • 1 pound ground beef or veal
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1/2 pound pancetta or regular bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • 3 large carrots, coarsely chopped
  • 3 ribs celery, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup mushrooms, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup Italian red wine, such as Sangiovese or Chianti
  • 3 cups chicken broth (1-2 cups more if you like a thinner sauce)
  • 1/2 can tomato paste
  • 1 cup milk
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 6 cups cooked egg noodles or Pappardalle
  • 1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

In a large dutch oven or stock pot, brown the meat over medium-high heat with plenty of salt and pepper. Drain the rendered fat and discard. Put the browned meat in a bowl and set aside. In the same pan, cook the pancetta or bacon until just crisp. Drain the pancetta on paper towels, leaving the rendered fat in the pan. Add the chopped onion, carrots, celery, mushrooms and plenty of salt and pepper to the pan and cook until veggies are tender, about 10 minutes. Add a tablespoon of olive oil if the veggies absorb all the pancetta fat before they’re fully cooked.

Add the cooked ground meat and pancetta back to the pan and then pour the wine into the pan, allowing it to deglaze any browned bits off the bottom. Cook for three minutes and then pour in the broth. Add the tomato paste, and stir to combine. Bring mixture to a boil and then immediately reduce the heat to a simmer. Leave all that meaty goodness to simmer for an hour or longer to let the flavors meld. At this point, feel free to add dried herbs, such as oregano, thyme or rosemary, to boost the flavor even more.

After simmering for an hour or so, add the milk to the sauce and let simmer for 15 minutes more. If the sauce is too thick, add more broth to reach the consistency you prefer. Season to taste. Divide cooked noodles into four bowls and top with a couple ladles full of bolognese. Finish with Parmesan and chopped parsley and more salt and pepper to taste. Then, sit back, relax and take your time filling your belly. Enjoy!


Balsamic Vinegar Reduced to Utter Deliciousness

It’s fall, so savory, roasted fall veggies are what I’m feeling right now. Not to mention, bitter greens, figs, pears and apples. Oh, and let’s throw in some nuts to really up the earthy flavors of late harvest season. If you drizzle reduced balsamic vinegar over the top, now, you’ve got magic on a plate.

Fine dining, farm-to-table and even casual restaurants the world over have been reducing vinegars and other sauces for decades. It sounds so refined on a menu: “balsamic honey reduction…” It makes you think you’re getting something that perhaps took hours to reach peak flavor, the chef tentatively watching over a pan of dark liquid, simmering it just so, all the while gently stirring it to make sure nothing burns or sticks.

I hate to ruin the mystique, but it’s pretty simple to reduce balsamic vinegar into intense, flavorful, syrupy goodness, and it only takes about 30 minutes total. Drizzle it over a plateful of fall produce or even ice cream, and experience reduction nirvana. Here’s a recipe for a simple salad or an impressive appetizer.

Fall ingredients.

Endive with apples, figs, walnuts, goat cheese and honey balsamic reduction

  • 1 cup of decent quality balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup of apple cider
  • 2 Tablespoons of honey
  • 2-3 heads of endive
  • 1 ripe honey crisp apple, thinly sliced
  • 8 ripe purple figs, cut into quarters
  • 1/4 cup toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • goat cheese crumbles
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh thyme
  • freshly ground pepper

In a medium sauce pan over medium high heat, mix the first three ingredients. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a high simmer. Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the mixture is reduced by half and beginning to resemble the consistency of syrup. The bubbles from simmering will enlarge and hold their shape longer when it’s getting close to done. Remove from heat and let cool for another 10 minutes. The mixture will continue to thicken as it cools. 

In the meantime, assemble the salad. Separate the endive leaves whole and place on individual plates (I use three leaves per serving). Top each endive with an apple slice, two to three fig quarters and walnuts. Drizzle each plate with the balsamic reduction and sprinkle with goat cheese, thyme and pepper. Serve immediately. 

You can make the reduction sauce up to a week in advance and store at room temperature in an airtight container. If it thickens up too much so you can’t pour or drizzle it, add a Tablespoon of apple cider or water and heat it up slightly, just until its pourable.