On a recent trip to Miami, Juan Carlos and I happened upon an Italian bistro and retail shop, Made in Italy, on our way to the Design District. I was in my absolute glory because these types of places simply make my day. I'm like a kid in a candy store. Maybe it's because I wish I owned one, or maybe because I love shopping in curated, specialty stores. (Ok, maybe it's both.) It was so quaint that we decided to delay our original destination a bit and stay to have a glass of wine and a bite to eat. JC ordered a bowl of Bolognese sauce with crusty bread and I ordered Salmon with fennel. Little did I know how fate by way of a detour would intervene that day and present us with two dishes that would inspire me months later to create my own take on them.
If you had a chance to read last week's post, you already know that we hosted a Post Thanksgiving party which meant I needed food options. So guess what? A big bowl of meat ragú was going to hold a place on the buffet table. I wanted it to be hearty like a Bolognese but didn't want to add the milk. Folks, I kid you not, this couldn't be easier. It does take some cooking time though, so it all can bubble together, bouncing around and reducing down. But cooking time doesn't require any effort on your part, so easy peasy.
2.25 lb ground beef
1.25 lb ground pork
2 28 oz cans of plum tomatoes
2/3 c dry white wine
2-3 T olive oil
1/2 c onions, small chop
1/2 c celery, small chop
1/3 c carrots, small chop
3-4 cloves garlic
grated fresh nutmeg
1.5 t salt
1 t pepper
Sauté the vegetables, season with salt and pepper and let cook until super soft. Then using a potato masher (or a fork), break them down to create a paste or at least to mash up the bigger chunks.
Add all the ground meat, breaking up the larger pieces. You want to create pea size pieces, cooking until all the pink is gone. Before adding the tomatoes, make sure the whole plum pieces are cut up a bit into smaller ones. Pour it in, add the wine, grate fresh nutmeg, stir around and cover. Let this baby cook over low heat for hours. And I mean hours. I let mine cook away while I was prepping and photographing 4 other dishes for the next blog posts. That's a LONG time. The idea is to allow some of that liquid cook off to create a dense meat sauce that lovingly swims in a sea of sweet tomatoes.
I made this the day before, and thankfully it was an enormous pot full because my hubby tasted it and loved it so much he made a meal of it. The amounts in this recipe make a boat load so there was plenty for our guests the next day. I warmed it up and spooned it in a soup terrine for serving. Offered it up with some toasty, crunchy bread and spaghetti torts. It was a hit.
Cozy, fireside comfort food that was a lovely complement to some of the cold appetizers and vegetarian options we had. Oh, and another great aspect of this big pot of heartiness... if this amount is too much for your small group, fear not. You can freeze it in smaller containers and enjoy it again and again on a cold winter's night served over a bowl of pasta. Now that is heaven in a bowl.