This isn’t a great picture, but we forgot to take a picture until after everyone had dug in. Trust me, it tastes much better than it looks!
Here’s how this meal happened. It was Monday, around 4 pm, and I was ready to start getting dinner prepared. I’d planned for a fairly simple dinner: spinach tofu salad with spicy miso dressing, miso soup with tofu and spinach and baked tofu with wilted spinach and peanut sauce. And for those in the family not really keen on tofu and spinach, spaghetti squash with Indian spices. I had all the ingredients and just needed to do all the prep work first, so I could cook it later.
We generally don’t eat before 7 pm which is late for most people, but for our lifestyle it works well. The older two come home from school and want to snack so to eat at 5 pm (the way I grew up, you could set your clock by when my Mom had dinner on the table) is much too early.
When I first started cooking we would eat at 8, 9 or even 10pm – way too late and not good for the digestion! But I’m a lot better at timing things now, so I’ve moved dinner time to about 7 pm unless we have guests and then we aim for 6 pm.
The problem with my style of cooking is I LOVE being in the kitchen and I’m in no rush to get out, so I don’t care if it takes me three hours to make dinner or even lunch. It’s relaxing and meditative for me – Zen and the Art of Cooking. Hey, that could be the title of my first book!
So everything was ready and then my older son came into the kitchen and asked, what’s for dinner? I told him and the look on his face let me know he was not going to be a happy camper. Then Belle told me our daughter, the vegetarian, wasn’t going to be home for dinner. The menu suddenly seemed really inappropriate. Not to mention, Dylan wasn’t likely to touch any of it either.
My older son said, “How about something with tomato sauce?” (I think he wanted to order pizza.) So I said, “How about Home Made Pasta and Bolognese Sauce. You know, the one made from steak and takes two hours to make?”
His answer? “Okay!”
So off I went to the butcher for a top blade roast, ground pork, pancetta and to the grocery store for the rest of the ingredients. I got back before 5 pm and started the sauce.
One of my favourite “meat” cookbooks is The New Steak by Cree LeFavour. There is not a page in it that I do not like. Wonderful cookbook! I made the pasta my usual way, rather than following the method in The New Steak, and I made some changes to the Bolognese sauce in the book. One change was prompted by the fact that it’s hard to find fresh porcini mushrooms and I didn’t want to use the dried ones again, so I substituted shiitake mushrooms.
The finished sauce looks beautiful but some people, who shall remain nameless (his first initial is “Dylan”, by the way), won’t touch it because it has “flavours” in it. “Flavours” to Dylan means anything green, red, purple etc. So I took some of the sauce and puréed it in a blender and voila, no “flavours”. Puréeing is a great idea, because Dylan eats it and still gets some veggies.
A suggestion from a friend is to reserve some of the sauce and make a risotto with it. Now that sounds interesting, and I plan to try that the next time with the leftovers – if there are any.
Belle says: I love this Bolognese sauce, and have asked for it many times – and I don’t normally like pasta with sauce! The slow simmering makes the meat so tender, and the taste is out of this world. I usually have seconds, especially when Ward pairs this sauce with homemade pasta like he did the other night.
Adapted from The New Steak by Cree LeFavour
4 tbsp olive oil
2 lb top blade roast, cut into 1/4″ – 1/2″ pieces, most of the big fat removed
1/4 lb lean ground pork
1/4 lb pancetta(hot), diced
1 yellow onion, diced
5 ribs celery, diced
1 carrot, diced
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 cup fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and chopped
8 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 cup dry white wine (Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio)
6 sprigs thyme
4 fresh bay leaves
2 cups organic chicken stock, divided
1-1/2 cups skim milk, divided
5 tbsp tomato paste
1 cup chopped tomatoes and their juices (canned diced tomatoes work perfectly)
freshly ground black pepper
Parmesan cheese (fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano is best and worth it after going to all the trouble of making this beautiful sauce and home made noodles)
- Heat 2 tbsp oil in a large sauce pan until hot. Add about 1/3 of your beef and caramelize (about 5 minutes). Remove to a bowl and repeat with the rest of the meat.
- Cook the pork in the same pan and then remove to same bowl as the beef.
- Lower the heat to medium-high and add the pancetta to the pan (you may need more oil at this point) and brown it (about 5 minutes).
- Add the onion, celery and carrots, salt and cook for about 5-8 minutes, until carrots are soft.
- Add the shiitake mushrooms and garlic. Cook for a few more minutes.
- Turn the heat down to medium and add the wine, thyme and bay leaves.
- Reduce the mixture while stirring and scraping the brown bits off.
- As soon as it looks like it’s going to start sticking, add 1 cup of stock and 1/4 cup milk and the tomato paste. Reduce again.
- Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, slowly adding the remaining stock and milk. Cook slowly for 1.5 hours.
- About 10 minutes before the sauce is done, add the tomatoes and pepper.
- Adjust for taste with salt and pepper. I don’t find it needs any, especially if you’re adding Parmesan cheese.
This will take less then an hour to make and since the Bolognese sauce was taking 1-2 hours to cook, I had nothing else to do, so I decided to make the pasta instead of using store-bought pasta. See my previous post about making home made pasta in 30 minutes.
I doubled the flour and eggs for this meal so it took longer to roll out the pasta and cut it. For 4 people, use approximately 4 cups of all purpose flour and 4 free range eggs in a food processor. Add flour as required until you get slightly sticky little balls of dough. Remove from processor and divide into 4 equal balls.
Use your pasta machine to roll out the 4 balls, flouring them and stacking them. When finished, lay each sheet out on the cutting board and fold in half, slice with a knife and shake into a large bowl.
Boil salted water. Add 1 tbsp olive oil and cook in batches. Add more olive oil for the third batch.