Pasta Season Returns, Part One: Butcher’s Bolognese

For about 8 hours over the weekend, Los Angeles weather plunged into the low 60s, which is about as close as we’ve gotten to Fall so far this year. It triggered that Autumn reaction that inspires braises, and soups, and roasts, and all those hearty comfort dishes that one eschews in the summer.

I’ve been trying to get into the habit of cooking a few weekday dinner components on the weekend, and decided to make and freeze two pasta sauces: a bolognese and a garlicy rapini and sausage. It took a full two hours to get them right, but they’ll thaw out nicely during the week and make it easier to throw together a hearty Fall family meal.

The Gastrokid Butcher’s Bolognese

We’ve done a fast bolognese before, which is easy and excellent. But freaked out by recent ground meat scares, I decided to chop my own meat and ended up coming up with this recipe (it makes a ton, we’ve so far made two meals of this batch and will easily make three more). This one version is cool because it’s richer than most and actually teaches kids the much needed lesson of where ground meat comes from: from actual pieces of meat from actual animals! I bought a mix of lean cheap stew beef, some pork shoulder, and some pork fat, and blitzed it all  in the Cuisinart. No mystery meat there.

You’ll need a stockpot to make this big batch:

3 cans peeled tomatoes (san marzano, plum, etc, whichever)
3/4 pound beef stew meat (the meat measurements are approximate here; the point is more beef than pork, more lean than fat. The precise ratios are really up to you)
1/2 pound pork shoulder
1/4 pound pork fat
2 cups finely chopped white or yellow onions
1 cup finely chopped celery
1 cup finely chopped carrot
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup wine
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil

Chop the meat into 2 inch pieces and blitz it all up in the food processor, until it’s finely chopped. It will look more like a paste than true ground meat, but that’s just fine. It cooks up nicely. In a stockpot, brown the meat over high heat, breaking up with a spoon as it cooks, and set aside in a bowl. Season a bit with salt and pepper. Add a few tablespoons olive oil and bring up to temperature, then sautee the vegetables until translucent. Season vegetables a bit. Return the meat to the pot. Break the tomatoes up with your hands and add to the stockpot along with their juices. Simmer for a couple of hours until thick as you desire (in the end, i took it another hour on the stove, and it got all concentrated and perfect).

Eat some that night (we had ours with rigatoni, a ton of parm, even tomato-averse Desi ate his with gusto. Such is the power of pork fat). Refrigerate a few cups. Freeze the rest.

(Stay tuned for the rapini and sausage recipe)


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