An Italian Feast: Spaghetti Bolognese, Roasted Asparagus with Poached Egg, and Garlic Bread

I didn’t know what “bolognese” was until fairly recently. Sure, I had heard the term plenty of times, but I never knew “bolognese” was just a fancy name for a meat-based sauce for pasta. Turns out, I had spaghetti bolognese quite often as a kid. Well, kind of. It was more like, “let me open this jar of Ragu over some pasta so I can say I cooked you kids some dinner.” Not a big difference, right?

Usually, I don’t go for recipes that involve me slaving in the kitchen for hours at a time. Sure, I like a bit of a challenge, but I don’t want a backache to overshadow the victory of my latest kitchen adventure. When I came across Anne Burrell’s Pasta Bolognese recipe, the first thing I noticed was the four and a half hours of cooking time. Despite that craziness, I still went forward with making it. Hey, at least I could say I’ve made bolognese sauce from scratch. And, because the idea of cooking a meat sauce for almost five hours wasn’t daunting enough, I decided on a side of roasted asparagus with poached egg, and garlic bread. From scratch. Oh, and did I mention I had never made Italian bread before?

Spaghetti Bolognese

Tweaked from Anne Burrell

 

1 large onion, cut into 1-inch dice
2 large carrots, cut into 1/2-inch dice
3 ribs celery, cut into 1-inch dice
4 cloves garlic
extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
3 pounds ground chuck
1 28-ounce can whole San Marzano tomatoes, crushed by hand
3 cups red wine
water
3 bay leaves
1 bunch thyme, tied in a bundle
1 pound spaghetti
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese (you can certainly use Parmigiano Reggiano, if preferred)

In a food processor, puree onion, carrots, celery, and garlic into a coarse paste. In a large pan over medium heat, coat pan with oil. Add the pureed vegetables and season with salt. Cook the vegetables until all the water has evaporated and they become nice and brown, stirring frequently, about 15 to 20 minutes. Have some patience! Add the ground beef and season again generously with salt and pepper. Brown the beef and let cook about 15 to 20 minutes.

Add the crushed tomatoes and tomato paste and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the red wine. Cook until the wine has reduced by half, about 10 to 15 minutes.

Add water to the pan until the water is about 1 inch above the meat. Toss in the bay leaves and the bundle of thyme and stir to combine everything. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Simmer for 3 1/2 to 4 hours. If your sauce reduces too much, add some water. Don’t be afraid to add water, you can always cook it out. As your sauce simmers, be sure to taste it and season it accordingly.

During the last 30 minutes of cooking, bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat to cook the spaghetti. Remember to salt the water! When the water is at a rolling boil add the spaghetti and cook for 1 minute less than it calls for on the package. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water.

While the pasta is cooking remove 1/2 of the meat sauce from the pot and set aside.

Drain the pasta and add to the pot with the remaining meat sauce. Stir the pasta to coat with the sauce. Add the reserved pasta cooking water and cook the pasta and sauce together over a medium heat until the water has reduced. Turn off the heat grate some Pecorino Romano over the entire pot of pasta. Toss vigorously. Serve the pasta and top each dish with some more Pecorino Romano. Serve immediately.

Roasted Asparagus with Poached Egg

Adapted from Anne Burrell

 

What You’ll Need:

3 tablespoons white vinegar
12 spears asparagus
Extra-virgin olive oil
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Fill a large saucepan two-thirds of the way with water. Add the white vinegar and bring to a boil.

Holding the tip and stem of each asparagus spear, snap the asparagus where it will naturally break. Discard the ends. Toss the asparagus with some olive oil and sprinkle some salt over them. Place the asparagus in the oven and roast for 15 minutes.

Reduce the heat on the water until the bubbles in the water have subsided. Gently crack and drop the eggs into the water. Cook the eggs for 3 to 4 minutes. When done, the whites will be cooked through and the yolks will be warm but still liquid. Using a slotted spoon, carefully remove the eggs from the saucepan and blot the bottom of the spoon on a paper towel before plating the egg. Remove the asparagus from the oven. Divide the roasted asparagus spears on plates and top each set of asparagus with a poached egg. Sprinkle with the grated Parmigiano and a bit of pepper. Serve with some soft Italian bread, to sop up the yolk.

Italian Bread (to later transform into Garlic Bread)

What You’ll Need:

4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 1/3 cups warm water (90 to 110 degrees F)
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
1 package (2 ½ teaspoons) active dry yeast
1 egg
1 tablespoon water
2 tablespoons cornmeal

Place the water and yeast into the bowl of an electric mixer and allow the yeast to bloom for about 5 minutes. Add the flour and sugar to the water and mix until a dough begins to form. Drizzle the oil and salt into the dough and continue to mix for about 8 to 10 minutes, or until a smooth, firm dough is formed. Wrap the bowl in plastic wrap and let the dough sit until doubled in size, about an hour and a half.

Deflate the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Form dough into two loaves. Place the loaves on a cutting board generously sprinkled with cornmeal. Cover the loaves with a damp cloth and let rise, until doubled in volume about 40 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

In a small bowl, beat together egg and 1 tablespoon water. Brush the risen loaves with the egg mixture. Make a single long, quick cut down the center of the loaves with a sharp knife. Gently shake the cutting board to make sure that the loaves are not sticking. If they stick, use a spatula or pastry knife to loosen. Slide the loaves onto a baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes. Once the bread cool enough for you to handle, feel free to turn this into some garlic bread…

Garlic Bread

What You’ll Need:

Italian Bread (see above)
6 tablespoons room temperature butter
10 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Mozzarella cheese (if desired)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Add the garlic and seasonings to the softened butter and blend well. Slice the bread in half, horizontally. Spread the butter mixture on each half. Sprinkle with cheese, if desired. Place the bread on a baking sheet and bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Enjoy!

After serving up this meal, I feel like I’ve conquered a culinary mountain. Ok, maybe a large hill. Still, this felt greatly rewarding and satisfying. John proclaimed it an “amazing” meal and served himself a second helping. Even Logan, my super-picky three year old, proclaimed that he LOVES mommy’s bread. Not bad, eh?

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Stracoto with Porcini Mushrooms

Stracoto, Italian-Style Pot Roast


To me, nothing says “yum” better than a good ol’ hunk of meat. It fills your belly and leaves you satisfied. After watching “Giada’s Family Christmas” on Food Network, I made a mental note to make stracoto, which is an Italian-style pot roast, as soon as possible. Once I did, I was NOT disappointed! Even my husband, who tends to be wary of new recipes, absolutely loved this one. The meat was fall apart tender, the flavors were bold, and the sauce was thick and rich. Stracoto will be my “go to” pot roast recipe from now on.



This recipe calls for beef chuck roast, so please make sure to use just that. Don’t substitute, I beg of you. Don’t use bottom round roast or anything else just because it was sitting in your local supermarket. Chuck is a fairly inexpensive cut of meat. If your local butcher or supermarket doesn’t have it at the time, then go elsewhere or hold off on this recipe all together! A nice piece of chuck is what makes the difference between a delicious pot roast and a dry hunk of beef. Trust me, I’ve been there. You can ask my husband! ::rolls eyes::


Check out that marbling! Isn't it beautiful? ::swoon::


Once you’ve browned your roast and have gotten through the first few steps of this easy recipe, you can pop this baby in the oven and forget about it till later. After a few hours, you’ll have a tender pot roast ready to “wow” your dinner guests. Serve it with simple mashed potatoes or creamy polenta, a side salad, and dinner is done!




Stracoto (Italian-style Pot Roast) with Porcini Mushrooms

adapted from Giada De Laurentiis
yields about 6 to eight servings



What you’ll need:

1 (5-pound) boneless beef chuck roast
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil, divided
2 onions, chopped
6 cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup red wine, such as cabernet sauvignon or pinot noir
1 (15-ounce) can low-sodium beef broth, plus extra, as needed
1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
1 large sprig fresh rosemary, leaves removed and chopped
6 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed and chopped


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Pat the beef dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. In a heavy 6-quart pot or Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat. Add the beef and cook until browned on all sides, about 12 minutes. Remove the beef and set aside.

Reduce the heat to medium. Add the remaining oil and the onions. Cook, stirring frequently, until tender, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute until aromatic. Add the wine and scrape up the brown bits that cling to the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Stir in the broth and mushrooms. Return the beef to the pot and bring the liquid to a boil. Cover the pot and transfer to the oven. Cook until the beef is fork-tender, about 3 hours, turning the beef over halfway through and adding more beef broth, as needed.

Transfer the beef to a cutting board. Tent with foil and let stand for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, spoon any excess fat off the top of the pan juices. Using an immersion blender (or regular blender), blend the pan juices and vegetables until smooth. Add the rosemary and thyme. Bring to sauce to a simmer and simmer for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Cut the beef into 1-inch pieces and place on a platter. Spoon some of the sauce over the meat and serve the remaining sauce on the side. Enjoy!

A Taste of Home

It’s been a while since my first entry. I haven’t lost interest or my passion for cooking, it’s just been hard find time to LEARN to  blog. Honestly, this entire process is new to me. I don’t like the feeling of not knowing how to do something. I’m not tech-savvy, so using WordPress is similar to me learning a new language. Funny enough, during a recent visit to the library, I came across WordPress for Dummies. It was like a sign! I immediately headed to the checkout desk and trotted home with my latest find. Now, I haven’t actually had time to open the book, but I’m sure the day will come. Until then, I’ve been cooking up a storm and wanted to share my latest meal.

When I want comfort food, you know, the type of food that warms you up, fills your belly and makes you want to curl up on the sofa because you’re so full, I usually turn to one of two ingredients: potatoes or rice. Today, it was the latter. I decided to cook up a taste of home and reached down to my Spanish roots. Tonight’s menu consisted of yellow rice, pink beans and roasted pork shoulder with mojo, a delicious garlic sauce. If you’re a fan of garlic, like I am, you’ll want to make this sauce again and again!

Yellow Rice

Arroz Amarillo

Adapted from Memories of a Cuban Kitchen by Mary Urrutia Randelman

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 can (8 oz) tomato sauce (preferably Goya brand)

1 packet Sazon Goya with Coriander and Annatto

2 tablespoons Goya Sofrito Tomato Cooking Base

2 cups raw extra long-grain white rice (preferably Carolina brand)

4 cups water

In a medium-size saucepan over low heat, heat the oil until fragrant, and then add the Sazon and Sofrito. Heat for about one minute. Add the rice, water and tomato sauce, then raise the heat to high. Cook, uncovered, until all the water has been absorbed and small craters appear on top of the rice, 10 to 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, stir with a fork, cover, and cook until the rice is dry and fluffy, 10 minutes.

Pink Beans

Habichuelas Rosadas

1 can (15.5 oz) Goya Pink Beans

2 tablespoons Goya Sofrito Tomato Cooking Base

1 can (8 oz) tomato sauce (preferably Goya brand)

1 tablespoon tomato paste

2 packets Goya Sazon with Coriander and Annatto

½ cup water

Combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for about 10 minutes.

Roasted Pork Shoulder

Pernil

Adapted from Memories of a Cuban Kitchen by Mary Urrutia Randelman

One 8 pound leg or shoulder of pork

10 cloves garlic

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 tablespoon salt

½ teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground pepper

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

½ cup Goya Naranja Agria, Bitter Orange Marinade or ¼ cup orange juice combined with 1/8 cup each fresh lime and lemon juice

½ cup dry sherry

The night before cooking, pierce the meat all over with a large knife. In a mortar, combine the garlic, oregano, salt, and cumin, and mash into a paste. Rub the paste well onto the pork, making sure to put some in the slits of the meat. Place the pork into a large pan or plastic bag, whatever you will be using to keep the meat in overnight.  Add the Naranja Agria and sherry, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Remove the meat from the marinade and place in a roasting pan. Roast for 15 minutes, uncovered. Then, cover the pork and reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Cook for another four hours. During the last 15 minutes, uncover the pork so the skin will develop a crunchy texture. When it is done, remove the pork from the oven and allow it to sit, covered with foil, 15 minutes before carving. Serve with Mojo.

Mojo

Garlic Sauce

10 gloves garlic

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons Goya Naranja Agria, Bitter Orange Marinade or ¼ cup orange juice combined with 1/8 cup each fresh lime and lemon juice

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

In a small food processor, pulse the garlic and salt until it forms a paste. Slowly add the Naranja Agria, then the olive oil, processing until smooth. This delicious sauce will keep about one week refrigerated, although I doubt it will last that long!