It is with great remorse that I recall how late bolognese entered my life. Yes, there was a time when “bolognese” just sounded too fancy, too French, for my liking. But if there’s one way to get me to eat something, it’s slipping it into lasagna, right there between the layers of pasta and creamy cheese. And for this very thing, I say THANK YOU to Papa Joe’s (one of my favorite Italian restaurants in Akron, Ohio) for their bechamel lasagna with bolognese. It was love at first bite, as they say.
For the record, bolognese is not French. It is, in fact, a hearty Italian meat sauce. I’ve come so far.
I succumbed to eating bolognese without much arm twisting, but I didn’t attempt to cook the sauce myself until I sat in on a cooking class with my friend Keia (her blog: Ink and Fork) at Chef Alyssa’s Kitchen at the Atherton Market this fall.
Here’s the deal. This sauce takes time. The more time you put into the sauce, letting it gently simmer on the stove, the richer the flavors will be. The good news is the sauce gives you an excuse to open a nice bottle of red wine (as if you needed an excuse…), and you, lovely chef, can enjoy the remainder of that bottle while the sauce slowly cooks down. It’s precisely the sort of relaxing kitchen moment I crave.
This sauces freezes well, and even if you double the recipe, you’ll still have plenty of wine to drink, so go for it, friend. For my bolognese, I like a medium to full-bodied dry red wine, like the Alamos Malbec I used in this batch. Whatever varietal you choose, make sure to pick a wine you’d actually enjoy drinking. Which is exactly what I did with the rest of my Malbec… This one is going into my regular rotation!
Chef Alyssa’s Kitchen — Healthy & Sustainable cooking classes
If you’re looking for a fun date night or girls night out, check out Chef Alyssa’s cooking classes. Chef Alyssa does an awesome job of breaking down intimidating recipes into easy, step-by-step chunks. Keia and I had a great time in the class, and this bolognese recipe is one I’ll be making for years to come. Check out the class schedule here.
Heat oil in a heavy pot over (or large saute pan) medium-high heat. Add onions, celery, and carrots and saute until soft, about 8-10 minutes.
Add beef and pancetta (or bacon); saute, breaking up the meat with the back of a spoon, until browned, about 15 minutes. Add wine and balsamic and boil for 2 minutes, stirring often and scraping up browned bits.
Add the stock and tomato paste. Reduce heat to very low and gently simmer, stirring occasionally, until the flavors meld, about 1 hour. Season with salt and pepper.
Finish sauce by adding the milk, then bring to a simmer until absorbed, about 20 minutes. Transfer the sauce to a large saute pan.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season with salt; add pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until 1 minute before al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cupful of the pasta water, and add the pasta to the bolognese sauce. Turn heat to medium-high, toss to coat. If the sauce is too thick, add a few splashes of the pasta water to loosen it up. Top with parmesan and parsley before serving.
When I was a kid, I loved ketchup-and-cheese sandwiches. I’m not talking about grilled cheesy goodness dunked in ketchup, here; this was two pieces of Home Pride, a single slice of Kraft American, and a heavy-handed squiggle of Heinz 57. I was obsessed with ketchup. Ketchup made everything better. Although both parents deny preparing said ketchup-and-cheese sandwiches for us kids and my sister says the thought of such a sandwich “makes her want to hurk,” there’s no denying that ketchup was the star ingredient in my mom’s meatloaf. I was, of course, meatloaf’s number one fan. Just the word “meatloaf” takes me back to those days, standing in the kitchen, watching my mom transform a mound of ground beef into a perfect oval with rapid two-handed pats before she iced the whole thing with ketchup and tossed it into the oven. It killed me that meatloaf took so long to cook. An hour?! Really, Mom? And then, as we (finally) sat down to eat, I’d silently start hoping for leftovers, because the only thing better than Mom’s meatloaf was a cold, leftover meatloaf-and-ketchup sandwich the next day.
Now that I’m all old and mature, my ketchup-and-cheese sandwich has been upgraded to a crusty baguette with hunks of gooey brie, and a taste for wine has replaced my craving for all things ketchup. And meatloaf? Well, I still love it, and this cheesy Marsala-glazed meatloaf recipe puts a classy spin on the nostalgic meal. It’s still got ketchup (as all good meatloaves do), but this one has hunks of gooey, white cheddar cheese and is dressed with a sweet wine glaze. It tastes indulgent and traditional all at once, and it’s a dinner both kids and adults will enjoy.
Dry Marsala wine is fantastic in this recipe (I used Colombo Fine Dry Marsala Wine, which has hints of vanilla and raisin). The meatloaf can be prepared a day ahead and stored covered in the fridge for a hearty, low-stress meal the next day.Read More
Remember that super fun video recipe project I’ve been telling ya’ll about? Well, one of the four videos we shot was for a recipe I specially developed for Tropical Foods. To get my creative juices flowing, Tropical Foods hooked me up with a sack full of their bold nut mixes. After trying them all, the PB&J mix stole my heart. PB&J triggers feelings of nostalgia for most of us, but the funny thing is, I didn’t eat it much as a kid. In fact, I went through a rebellious phase during which I vehemently swore I didn’t like the taste of PB&J. Looking back, I’m pretty sure I was lying through my teeth in hopes of getting something toasty, like a hot grilled cheese or tuna melt, for lunch instead. Sometime in college, I rediscovered the pure pleasure of the peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and I’ve been making up for lost time ever since.
Hope you enjoy my recipe for Peanut Butter and Jelly Snack bars! I know my Guinea pig coworkers did!
Make sure you enter the Tropical Foods Bold giveaway below! Three winners will receive one bag of each of the following How Bold Can You Go mixes:
Honey Roasted Buffalo Nuts
Ranch Buffalo Nuts
Blue Cheese Buffalo Nuts
Sienna Cream Crunch
When asked if I’d be interested in shooting some recipe videos for Tropical Foods, I said YES without really thinking about how much work goes into preparing, planning, and executing a video project. I said yes before I had a chance to think about standing in front of a camera and how sweaty that might make me. I said yes, because, well, for better or for worse I have a hard time saying no to opportunities, and honestly who could say no to the chance to work with a large, well-established Charlotte-based company like Tropical Foods?
To prepare for the shoot, I did what any self-respecting accountant would do: I input all the recipe ingredients into an Excel spreadsheet. There were columns for the description, quantity, recipe to which it related, and the corresponding grocery store aisle. Organization was key. Each recipe was cooked and tested three times prior to the shoot, and each round began with a massive grocery shopping trip. After I had my initial practice round with the recipes, I used the second and third go-arounds to verbally talk myself through the steps. “Ok, now we’ll melt the butter. Mmm buttterrrr.” “Give it a good stir.” “It’s ok if it looks like poo, it’ll still taste great!” I also found myself asking questions. I know Rachael Ray always de-stems her chard… but why? What’s the stem taste like anyway? What’s the difference between black and red grouper? What if I can’t find wonton wrappers at the grocery store? I jotted down questions as I went, and spent a lot of time researching ingredients and cooking processes.
The night before the shoot, I measured all of the ingredients into small containers and labeled what was what, then loaded each recipe’s ingredients onto a separate sheet pan. Even with all this prep, it took us about five hours to shoot all four recipe videos!Read More
I’ve realized lately that the kind of food I enjoy most is food that is uncomplicated. Sure, it’s awesome to tackle a difficult recipe, but there’s something to be said for the simple satisfaction of grabbing fresh ingredients from the fridge and transforming them into a great tasting meal without consulting a recipe every five seconds.
One night, while wandering up and down grocery store aisles, searching for something that might satiate me, I became increasingly agitated. It was mega-mart overload. I set my basket on the ground and considered abandoning the whole thing and ordering a nice hot pizza. After a short silent debate (during which time I’m sure I got a couple woah-crazy-lady looks), I took one final lap of the produce aisle and grabbed the things that looked best: cherry tomatoes, Brussels sprouts, a hunk of fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano (which the uptown grocery store conveniently keeps in the middle of the veggies), and a bottle of red wine. I had no recipe, just a bunch of things I eat often and love.
These days, we are inundated with recipes. They are everywhere. And if you’re like me, you’re constantly clipping and pinning and bookmarking things to try. The recipe pool is big and bottomless, and while these are great qualities for a mimosa, I often find myself completely flummoxed when I try to decide which one to make for dinner. I call this recipe paralysis. We’ve all become so reliant on recipes, we’ve forgotten how simple cooking can be.
When I got home from the grocery store, I poured a glass of wine and cranked the oven and some tunes (and by tunes, I mean NPR, of course). I put the halved Brussels sprouts and cherry tomatoes on a sheet pan along with a few cloves of thinly sliced garlic, drizzled on some extra virgin olive oil, and seasoned with salt. I roasted the veggies in a 425 degree oven for twenty minutes, during which time I cooked some whole wheat spaghetti (or was it linguine?) on the stove top. Saving a mugful of the starchy cooking liquid, I combined the drained noodles with the hot roasted veggies, a drizzle of evoo, red pepper flakes, some salt, a little of the cooking liquid, and a generous grating of the fresh parmesan. Dinner was served without the guidance of a recipe (what?!) and it was delicious.Read More
Last month, I teamed up with Tropical Foods to create videos for four AWESOME recipes, one of which was created by yours truly! I posted the video for Buffalo Bleu Tailgate Bars last week, and today’s recipe video features Mexicali Grouper. Take it from the girl who hates fish – this recipe makes for a delicious crusted fish with big bold flavors courtesy of the Mexicali Fire snack mix used coat the fillets.
Speaking of BIG FLAVORS, Tropical Foods just rolled out their How Bold Can You Go site, which features all of their boldest nuts and mixes. Check it out! And don’t forget, if you see something you like, you can place orders online at The Nut House.
Now onto the fun part! Tropical Foods has generously offered to give three lucky readers gift baskets, chock full of the bold nuts and snack mixes used in the recipe videos! There are several ways to enter–check out the rafflecopter below! The giveaway ends at midnight on June 15, 2013.