Thursday, November 29, 2012

Aunt Roe's Bolognese Sauce

Our family said goodbye to an amazing woman a couple of weeks ago. My Great Aunt Roe passed away on November 11th.

Saying goodbye is always hard, though the time we spent with the family allowed everyone to reflect on all the good times -- the laughs, the stories, the visits, the food.

When my sister and I were in middle school, we would spend a lot of time during our summer vacations at "Camp Rosemary." This was a very exclusive summer camp that involved days with Aunt Roe doing puzzles, making crafts from Michael's, watching the Game Show Network and playing around with her Italian Greyhound, Stella.

Aunt Roe loved entertaining and being around others and welcoming friends and family into her home. She always thought to put others before herself--what a gracious woman!

Whenever we visited Aunt Roe, we knew there was going to be some delicious food involved. First, there were her infamous Chicken Cutlets. She would pound out the chicken so thin, and they would be cooked to fried crispy perfection. I will NEVER be able to make chicken cutlets like her--they were addicting! She also made the BEST peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I don't know what her secret was...perfectly toasted bread, an even distribution of peanut butter and jelly, some extra love sprinkled in.

As I started cooking more, she bestowed upon me one of her best recipes...Bolognese Sauce. This sauce is just delicious. A creamy tomato sauce with ground pork and beef, simmered on low until it reaches perfection. I cannot begin to count how many bowls of pasta I have enjoyed that were topped with this sauce and a healthy amount of parmesan cheese.

Cory and I wanted to honor Aunt Roe by cooking up a batch of her bolognese sauce this week. It is warm and loving, just like Aunt Roe. Enjoy it with family and friends, share laughs and good stories, just enjoy each other! Next time you need a pick me up, this is your solution.

Now, before you make this, there are some things we need to set straight.

First, it needs to be topped with a generous helping of FRESHLY GRATED parmesan cheese. None of that powdery bottled stuff. It elevates everything to a level of cheesey Italian euphoria.

Second, none of that whole wheat pasta. Fresh pasta would be best, but otherwise try it with a short cut roni of some kind. Rotini and cavatappi are some of our favorites.

Third, don't try and go all lean here. What I'm saying is, this dish does not want to be made with ground turkey or chicken (it told me so!). Pork and beef. The only options. Got it? Good.

Fourth, warm and toasty bread should be served on the side with a smear of butter. I know what you're thinking...pasta AND bread? SO MANY CARBS. That's OK. We are just going to pause our diet for one night and eat this meal the way it was supposed to be eaten.

The recipe below is enough sauce for 2 pounds (2 boxes) of pasta. That will serve about 6 people very hearty portions. If you are cooking for a smaller crowd, still make the full batch and freeze the second half. These measurements are impossibly annoying to cut in half, and besides, this freezes VERY well. Just defrost all day in the refrigerator when you are ready to use it again.

From my family, to yours. Here it is: Aunt Roe's Bolognese Sauce

Here's what you need:

1/2 pound ground beef
1/2 pound ground pork
6 tablespoons of butter (not a typo...6, no more no less)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove chopped garlic
1 medium onion, diced
1 14.5 ounce can tomato sauce
1 14.5 ounce can beef broth
1 10.5 ounce can tomato paste
1/3 cup or more half and half

Here's what you do:

In a large, deep skillet, add the olive oil and sautee the garlic for no more than 1 minute. Melt in the butter over medium heat.

Add in the onions and cook until slightly browned and softened.
Add in the meat. Crumble and cook until browned.
 In a bowl, mix the paste and most of the beef broth.
Reduce heat to low and stir in the beef broth mixture. Add in the tomato sauce gradually, using the remaining beef broth to clean out as much of the sauce and paste from the cans as possible (personal tip from Aunt Roe that she wanted written explicitly in the recipe!).

Cook on low for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
While the sauce cooks and all the flavors marry together, cook pasta to al dente in a generously salted pot of water.

Just before serving, stir in the half and half. Start with 1/3 of a cup and add more depending on your creaminess desires. I usually don't even measure it. Just pour and stir, pour and stir, in small batches until desired thickness.

For serving, as I always enjoyed it at Aunt Roe's, I like to add this sauce individually to each plate rather than combining all the pasta and sauce together in one pot or mixing bowl. Serve 3 to 4 serving-spoonfuls of pasta and top with 2 to 3 generous spoonfuls of bolognese sauce. Allow everyone to add their own parmesan cheese (but encourage them to go overboard. Just this once).

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