Bolognese...The Comfort of a Good Meal

Why me? Why us? What kind of person? Ever find yourself stuck here? Yeah let's take a look at that for a moment.
There were times during childhood when what little we had was threatened. Either we didn't have enough money for food or clothing, or we were alienated for our lifestyle and it didn't feel safe out there. As a child, it all feels the same...something bad is going to happen. Protect. Protect. Protect. And yet, dad woke up every morning and asked us to give no matter what. And he gave when everything seemed futile. And he smiled when we all wanted to cry. And he would breath in deep, as if calling on some unseen source of strength...some celestial origin of truth. He'd calmly, firmly say:

"No matter how little you think you have, you always have something to give. Don't you forget that."

I never did. Fast forward to today. When gripped by fear of failure, retraumatization, shame, guilt and worthlessness. Feels like falling down a well. And from the bottom of the well, looking up at life there is a little voice that whispers in my ear. It says "No matter how little you think you have, you always have something to give."
Back then I thought he was talking about material things. Now I get it. Time and love provide the wisdom and purpose vital to survival. Can we learn to love through betrayal? Can we practice kindness to fight pessimism? 
Creating a meal for comfort, inviting someone in and spending time is what I can give today. So breathe in deep, call on your unseen source of strength...some celestial origin of truth, and let's cook.
This beautiful bolognese is both traditional and non-traditional. It's rich, creamy and wraps around anything in a loving hug. It's the first recipe in this series called The Comfort of a Good Meal. Try it with your favorite base such as:
  • gnocchi
  • spaghetti squash
  • stuffed peppers
  • roasted winter vegetables
  • over eggs
  • or a toothsome hardy pasta of course!

Bolognese - The Comfort of a Good Meal

serves 12 or more hungry friends
2 c chicken bone broth
56 oz canned whole San Marzano tomatoes
8 oz chicken livers
1 lb lean ground beef
1 lb cooked pork shoulder (or raw ground pork)
1 lb ground veal (or lamb)
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp black pepper
8 oz uncooked bacon
1 large yellow onion, diced
4 medium carrots, diced
4 ribs celery, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 c fresh sage (or 1 tsp dried sage)
1/2 c fresh parsley (or 1 TBSP dried parsley)
1 c dry red wine
1 c whole milk
2 bay leaves
4 c heavy cream
4 oz grated parmesan cheese
1 TBSP fish sauce (optional)
1 c grated parmesan cheese
  • Using a food processor or blender, first puree the tomatoes until smooth. Set aside in a bowl.
  • Without washing, pulse bacon until fully minced and set aside.
  • Then puree chicken livers until smooth and set aside in a separate bowl.
  • Finally, if using pre-cooked pork shoulder, pulse until fully minced. Set aside. (Now you can wash your food processor or blender.)

minced meat

  • Using a large oven-proof pot on the stovetop, saute minced bacon over medium heat until fully cooked and crispy. About 8 to 10 minutes. Remove bacon bits and set aside on a paper towel to drain. Leave bacon grease in the pot. 
  • Meanwhile, move oven rack to lower third of oven. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  • To the pot, add celery, onions and carrots. Continue to saute over medium heat until translucent. About 6 to 8 minutes. Stir often.
  • Add garlic, sage and parsley. Saute for one minute, stirring well.

  • Add beef, pork and veal (or lamb.) Saute until no longer pink, breaking up into small chunks while stirring. Another 5 to 8 minutes.
  • When no longer pink, add pureed chicken livers and tomatoes and bring to a simmer.

  • Add wine and stock and bring back to a simmer.
  • Stir in milk and bay leaves. Place the entire pot into the oven without a lid. You can put it on a baking sheet to catch any potential spills.

  • Cook in the oven for 3 1/2 hours (do not open the door) until the liquid has reduced significantly and the sauce is rich and thick. You may have a heavy layer of fat at the top depending on your choice of lean or fatty meats.
  • Carefully remove from the oven and place on heatproof surface. You will have a beautiful dark "skin" on the top of your bolognese. Skim off any excess fat. 

  • Slowly stir in fish sauce, parmesan and heavy cream.
  • Taste and adjust salt and pepper only if needed.
  • Serve over your favorite base sprinkled with additional parmesan cheese.
  • The fish sauce adds a unique depth and richness to the dish, thanks to Chef Kenji Lopez for opening my eyes there! Trust me you want this ingredient!
  • Plan on freezing leftovers unless you have a heard of hungry mouths to feed. This makes a lot of sauce and freezes well. Freezing makes it worth the extra effort. Make it once, enjoy it several times.
  • Yes, you can freeze it with the heavy cream....unless you're a purist. Then send me a message, I'll tell you how to freeze it without the cream.
  • Oh right! I almost forgot! The cooked bacon is great on a side salad!

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