When I was a child, Sunday dinners at my father's house were always quite interesting. Gather 12 or so Italian family members into a dining room, let them eat, let them drink and watch the sparks fly. I spent those afternoons observing...
I was sure Uncle Jim was in the Mob because he wore shiny shirts and had tattoos. Uncle Sonny and Aunt Anna were at odds because, well, just because. Cousin Christopher always had a new leggy girlfriend. One usually less bright than the other. There were heated arguments over who had the best ricotta pie recipe. It was fun to watch.
But the one thing we were all gathered there for was the food. My Dad was a fantastic cook, and his version of a meat sauce or the "Sunday Gravy" as we called it was a simple tomato sauce with plenty of garlic and basil. The gravy was slow cooked for a least half a day with a couple of pork chops, meatballs or a braciole, then served over homemade egg pasta. It was my favorite meal as a kid.
I still prepare the Sunday gravy, but the bolognese sauce has made its way into my repitoire, becoming more popular with my kids. This is a great sauce for fall, although as I write this it's a balmy 66 degrees here in San Francisco. Serve over pasta or use it to make lasagna.
This sauce is pretty basic. Combine all of the ingredients, then just wait. The longer it cooks the more flavorful it becomes. I prefer this the next day but if you want to, uncork a bottle of Chianti and yell at each other while it simmers away.
Simple BOLOGNESE SAUCE
makes 6 cups
- 1 medium yellow onion, rough chopped
- 2 small carrots, rough chopped
- 1 celery stalk, rough chopped
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 tbs olive oil
- 1 tbs unsalted butter
- 2 oz pancetta or bacon, finely chopped
- 1 pound ground beef
- 2 tbs tomato paste
- 1 c dry white wine
- 1/2 c milk
- 2 28 oz cans crushed San Marzano tomatoes
- 1 cup homemade or low-sodium beef or chicken broth
- sea salt and pepper to taste
In the bowl of a food processor pulse onion, carrot, celery and garlic until finely diced. You can do this by hand as well.
In a large heavy pot or dutch oven, heat olive and butter over medium -high heat, add pancetta and cook until slightly browned, mix in vegetables and cook until softened. Add ground beef and cook until well browned and extra moisture has evaporated. Stir in tomato paste and cook for 30 seconds.
Pour in white wine and cook until almost evaporated. Add tomatoes, milk, 1 c of broth and stir well. Cover and cook over low heat for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally. Season with salt & pepper. Serve over egg pasta.