Each winter I venture across the country to Maryland to visit my friends and family. With my Abuela Marina’s and Poppa George’s birthdays falling around my Mom’s birthday, Winter Solstice, and Christmas all in December we all get together to celebrate the holidays and our family. My grandfather always prepares this Bolognese sauce recipe, and I was always curious where he got the recipe from—and if it had ventured with my family out of Italy.
“Unfortunately the story is not very exciting, ” my grandpa started. In a reply back (below) he noted how my grandmother Marina discovered the recipe in my Italian great-grandmother’s house.
This recipe, although not directly from my great-great-grandmother, does remind my grandfather of his grandmother, Marina.
This memory of his grandmother–my Italian relative–reminds me of the classic Italian meals that I researched when studying the food culture of Italy. As things travel they also morph and evolve. When she came to San Francisco she opened the Monte Carlo restaurant, where she showed off her culinary expertise. She only cooked for the family on special occasions, and was a natural cook who could pull anything off. Unfortunately, I have never had the experience of cooking with Marina, or my great-grandmother Rita. Through this recipe I can only imagine what her recipes tasted like at the Monte Carlo–and for the first time, since previously I was a vegetarian before becoming a sustainivore.
Bolognese Meat Sauce
Marcella Hazan from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking
1. Make your soffritto. Combine
- 1 Tbs olive oil
- 3 Tbs butter
- 1/2 C. chopped onion
Once onions are translucent, add
- 2/3 C. chopped celery
- 2/3 C. chopped carrot
And cook for a couple more minutes, making sure to coat the celery and carrots in oil. Add,
- 3/4 pound ground beef chuck**–Poppa George claims that the fat in the chuck is far better than lean ground beef. Chef Hazan also recommends pork in addition.
- large pinch of salt
- couple pepper grinds
Break up the meat and stir everything well. Let meat brown, then add,
- 1 C. whole milk
Let the milk simmer out.
- 1/8 tsp. grated nutmeg, stir
- 1 cup dry white wine–I used Pinot Grigio from Italy, cause I felt it would make it more authentic.
Simmer down, again, similarly to the milk. While simmering, chop
- 1 1/2 cup (~12 oz.) canned Italian plum tomatoes, cut in with their juice. I suggest San Marzanos.
Stir the tomatoes and juice into the meat, and mix in well. Let this come to a boil, then reduce the temperature to a low boil and allow to simmer for three hours. Yeah, three hours! So pull out a book, maybe snack on something else around the house (dried pluots, anyone?), and maybe clean up your dirty dishes from earlier. Remember to stir every so often.
At the end of the three hours, no water should remain, and the fat separated from the sauce. Along the way, though, if it does begin to dry out and the fat seperate, stir in 1/2 cup of water.
Taste and correct for salt. Garnish with freshly graded parmigiano-reggiano cheese on top of Ziti pasta. Well, you can use any kind of pasta, but Poppa George always serves Ziti.
This recipe, and food in general, has allowed for my grandfather and I to bond. When I began at the University of San Francisco our relationship was rocky, with family politics complicating everything. Through my new love for food, gardening, and sustainability my grandfather and grandmother and I have been able to find common interest. The most epic of our “foodventures” was definitely when we went to Chez Panisse in Berkeley, CA for lunch. Although a short trip across the bay, I had never been to Berkeley before and that trip, and it really opened up my mind to the food culture beyond the bay. I’m hoping that for my graduation we’ll be able to go back to Chez Panisse again, and hopefully run into Alice this time!
**note: this recipe was not intended to promote eating meat as a form of sustainability. I strongly feel that a beef-laden diet, typical of modern America, is not environmentally sustainable, nor good for your body entirely. However, I feel that cultural sustainability is equally as important as the environment. While I could have made Abuela Marina’s vegetarian guacamole, the lack of tomatoes and avocados in season at the Farmers’ Market caused hesitation. Just know this, a Sustainivore is constantly assessing the impacts of the food they eat. This meal features chuck purchased at Faletti Food’s from Five Dot Ranch. I tried to buy the most local, sustainable chuck possible for this meal that satisfied the recipe, my wallet, and my eating preference.**