Posts Tagged ‘tomato’

Tomato Sauce with Butter and Onion

March 16th, 2010

Just three ingredients for the perfect tomato sauce!

Tomato sauce should be simple, don’t you think? At its root it is merely tomatoes that have been broken down, often using heat, to produce a sauce for pasta, vegetables, or meat, or used as an ingredient such as for simmering meatballs. But the food media has managed to impress upon us, as it often does, that the best tomato sauce should require a fifteen-step, ten-ingredient, five-hour-long recipe.

I am one of the easily impressed upon, and for years have tried to create a great tomato sauce which maintained the integrity of the tomatoes, while presenting complex flavor. Something bright yet rich, substantial yet delicate. I have begun with a sofrito, whole, or diced ingredients, and tried any combination of carrots, onions, garlic, peppers, celery, thyme, basil, sage, oregano, olive oil, ad infinitum, in a vain attempt to come up with a tomato sauce that would make people swoon.

Well, I have finally found the elusive recipe for the perfect tomato sauce. It has three ingredients (four, if you add salt), there is no chopping or sauteing, and takes just 45 minutes to cook. Seriously.

The recipe is attributed to Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, a book I owned, regrettably never cooked from, and as I can not find it on my shelves, has probably found its way to the library’s used book bin. I first read about this sauce in late January on Smitten Kitchen, who links to several other bloggers who have tried it over the years, from Amateur Gourmet (2005), to Rachel Eats (2010). It has appeared on the forums of Cook’s Illustrated, and on, twice. In fact, it has been reprinted so many places, I’m embarrassed it escaped my notice.

The fantastic flavor makes it seem like there must be spices or herbs among the ingredients. If you ask someone to guess what is in it, they won’t be able to. While the tomatoes hold their body, the binding is like velvet. It is rich without being overwhelming in the least. From now on, it is our house red.

Tomato Sauce with Butter and Onions
Attributed to Marcella Hazan, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, Knopf

– One 28 ounce can whole peeled tomatoes (preferably San Marzano if you have them)
– 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
– 1 medium-sized onion, peeled and halved
– Salt, to taste

1. Place tomatoes, butter, and onion in a saucepan over medium heat, and bring to a simmer.

2. Cook, uncovered, at a slow, steady simmer for 45 minutes, or until droplets of fat separate from the tomatoes. Stir occasionally, crushing the tomatoes with the back of a wooden spoon against the inside of your saucepan.

3. Discard the onion. Salt to taste. Keep warm while you prepare your pasta, and serve.

A few notes regarding the recipe:
– If that much butter alarms you, know that each tablespoon of butter is just slightly more than 100 calories. This recipe makes over 3 cups of sauce, or about 4 to 5 servings, so there’s not much to fear unless you are on a no-fat diet or going to eat this every day.
– Salt. This would make the fourth ingredient, if you use it. Unbelievably, I did not use any at all. I found no need for it. This, coming from a woman who may well beat Lot’s wife in salt content by body weight.
– Some posts mention to add Parmigiano cheese. I tried adding some after a few bites of pasta and plain sauce. I say go naked. The cheese nearly ruined it. Yes, I did just say cheese nearly ruined something.

Butter, onion, tomato. That's it.

Cooked for 45 minutes.


The Mailman Brings Cheese

February 9th, 2010

Vacherin Mont d'Or, Murray's Cheese Label

It all started with my friend’s enticing post about Vacherin au Four, a soft cow’s milk cheese, studded with garlic, fortified with wine, then melted in its wooden box in a hot oven and poured over potatoes or served fondue-style. There are few things I have a harder time resisting than melted cheese. Plus, it is winter, the height of the melted cheese season, so it seemed a perfect opportunity to try making this simple dish at home.

That meant getting my hands on some Vacherin Mont d’Or. Easier said than done in Northern New Jersey. I telephoned Wine Library in Springfield, who told me that while they did have an order that was supposed to arrive on the next boat, he wouldn’t know if it made the boat until it arrived, and even then he wasn’t sure it would make it through customs. I called Summit Cheese Shop in Summit, and was told that it would be nearly impossible to get, and good luck with that. I phoned Gary’s Wine and Marketplace in Madison, and was told they were out and didn’t expect to get any until next season, which would mean maybe October. I called Murray’s Cheese in Manhattan and was told, yes, they had plenty! I made two dates to hop into the city to pick some up, but both trips were foiled. I was going to have to suck it up and pay for shipping.

A foodie, shopping a website listing a large variety of cheese, armed with a credit card. Well, you can see where this is going, can’t you? My eyes glazed over as my fingers clicked to the “Special Sale” page. I would be saving money if I purchased some cheese on sale, wouldn’t I? And oh, what’s this? A virtual cheesemonger! Answer just a few multiple-choice questions, and my own cheesemonger will guide me to my ideal selections. I went deeper into my trance as “Amanda,” my virtual cheesemonger, described a list of cheeses that I’d surely enjoy. Click, click, click. I should get some bread too! Click. And oh yeah, I almost forgot, the Vacherin Mont d’Or. Click!

Two days later my professionally packaged box of cheese is waiting for me on the porch, with a stamped message on the top of the box informing the FedEx delivery person that it’s OK to leave the package with the recipient, even though it may stink. A lovely (to me) odor envelops our dining room as I inventory the contents of the box: Two Vacherin Mont d’Or (one for me, one for a friend), a half-pound of Cabot’s clothbound cheddar (a friend’s recommendation), a half-pound of Fourme de Ambert (“Amanda” said this blue is mild and sweet), one puck of Brunet (“Amanda” says it’s her favorite goat), a half-pound of Tete de Moine (I need this as have not used my girolle in ages), and one pound of Parmigiano-Reggiano (well, it was on sale), and a loaf of bread (if you’re going to go this far, you may as well buy the bread so you don’t have to go to the store).

Counter-top tasting: The first night, we have a simple tasting. My friend is right, Cabot’s clothbound cheddar is outstanding, and “Amanda’s” picks are spot-on. Not that I wouldn’t have been just as happy with any other cheesemonger’s choices. I have no prejudice against any cheese, but it was nice that these were cheeses that noticeably agreed with my taste. The goat is super creamy and mild, almost the texture of camembert, while the blue is downright luscious with a bit of tang. We eat it standing at the counter, all except the Vacherin and the Tete de Moine. Those, we’ll eat later.

Brunet, Fourme d'Ambert, Cabot Clothbound Cheddar

Vacherin au Four: I meant to make this on day two, but couldn’t get to it until day four. Life got in the way, as it often does, and we didn’t get to it right away. This is too bad because Anne over at Pots and Plumes had emailed me to say that we shouldn’t wait, as hers had been too ripe. I should have listened. When we received ours, it looked very fresh, almost white. By the time I retrieved it from the refrigerator to cook it, it was nearly orange and it had a very strong odor. I cooked it with garlic, wine, and a bit of chive, and ate it with potatoes and bread, but it had taken on a flavor of ammonia and was overripe. I emailed Murray’s Cheese, not to complain but to warn, and was told that I would be credited for the Vacheran Mont d’Or. Way to go Murray’s customer service! We will definitely be ordering from them again.

Vacherin Au Four

Interlude, cheddar with Diana Pittet: Ironic that of all weeks I should be attending a talk by Diana Pittet, who writes of her adventures in cheddar on her blog, CheddarBound. This is a very cozy affair in the private room at Jimmy’s 43 in Manhattan, during which Diana regales a crowd of listeners with stories of her travels and the making of cheddar. We enjoy a tasting of five cheeses, along with a cask ale, an apple cider, and an apple wine. Apple beverages go fabulously with cheese!

Spicy tomato and blue cheese soup
: It has occurred to me that perhaps I have purchased too much cheese. I should include some in a recipe, perhaps. I find the recipe for Michael Symon and Michael Ruhlman’s spicy tomato and blue cheese soup on Made with sriracha and blue cheese, it is creamy, fruity, and spicy. I highly recommend it. But I’m not sure I could have it more than a few times a year. It is rich.

Spicy Tomato and Blue Cheese Soup

Spicy Tomato and Blue Cheese Soup

Another tasting: End of the week, another spread of cheese on the counter for my husband and me to pick at. I’ve discovered this is probably my favorite way to eat cheese. It goes against all tenets of healthy eating, but I like it. Take what you want, when you want it. Leave the bread out with a knife nearby, or crackers, and maybe some olives, fruit, or nuts. Cheese is Nature’s processed food, so I figure it can’t be all that bad for us.

Tonight or tomorrow the Parmigiano-Reggiano will take its turn, grated over pasta. Sometime this weekend I’ll be leaving the girolle out on the kitchen counter to enjoy the thin rosette-shaped slivers of Tete de Moine with a glass of white wine. Probably while perusing Stinky Bklyn’s website. Their cheese-of-the-month club looks very tempting….

Long-Cooked Sugo and Turkey Meatballs with Porcini, Pine Nuts and Raisins

January 24th, 2010
Pasta, Sugo, and Turkey Meatballs

Pasta, Sugo, and Turkey Meatballs

“Oh, Lidia, this is never going to fit!” That’s me, brow furrowed, wooden spoon in hand, peering into my 3 qt. saute pan, talking to Lidia Bastianich as channeled through her book, Lidia’s Family Table. I believe I said that three times over the course of making this recipe. For some reason, it just doesn’t look like you can possibly fit any more ingredients in the pan, but by magic, and by the diligence of a good recipe tester, it all works out.

Chef Bastianich’s cookbook, true to its name, is full of recipes that will feed six or more. There are several recipes, such as this sugo, that describe one base recipe and then several variations or uses for it. For instance, she mentions this sugo is good “as a topping for a big bowl of dressed pasta,” “as a meat course with vegetables,” “in a risotto, using the sauce and broken-up meatballs,” etc. Among the expected recipes for pasta, polenta, and soup, there are some lovely vegetable recipes, such as roasted eggplant and tomato salad, and grilled corn and figs with balsamic reduction, and hearty dishes such as rabbit cacciatore.

With cinnamon, pine nuts, and raisins, the aroma and flavor of this sugo and meatballs are reminiscent of Middle Eastern cuisine. Although these ingredients typically fall into the sweet spectrum, their sweetness is tempered  by the vegetables of the soffrito and the acid of the tomatoes. I found the flavors of this dish refreshingly unexpected and interesting. The sauce is thick but not cloying, and coats the pasta (should you decide to serve it with pasta) beautifully. But the most incredible thing about this dish is the texture of the meatballs themselves. While sturdy and toothsome on the outside, they are incredibly soft and moist inside. Be forewarned, this is *not* your usual tomato-y sauce with beef or beef/pork/veal meatballs. If you are looking for the typical tomato-sauce and meatballs recipe, this is not it.

This recipe fit the bill as a winter-housewarming recipe (important criteria when it’s less than 40° F. outside), a meal to have together as a family, and the very important opportunity for leftovers. This makes enough for three meals for my family of three. It would have made four, except we ate a half dozen of the meatballs standing over the pot while we were tasting…for research, of course.

The recipe begins by making a soffritto. This is a vegetable base for the sauce, made by finely mincing various vegetables and softening them in the pan, before putting the tomatoes and broth in. Although the recipe says to cook the vegetables approximately four minutes, I cooked them longer. Make sure your vegetables are very soft, or else they will simply be hard pits in your sauce, rather than disintegrating into the tomatoes. In addition, when toasting the tomato paste, make sure it gets nicely browned. The whole concoction of vegetables and tomato paste when mixed together should be slightly darker orange-brown than the color of a basketball.

You’ll want very good ventilation for frying the meatballs, else your house may take on the odor of an Italian street fair for a while. However, Chef Bastianich makes note in her book that the meatballs don’t have to be fried (although I feel you will very definitely miss the texture). If you decide not to fry them, she says to increase the sauce by at least a third (or decrease the meatballs by a third) so that they have plenty of sauce to cook in.

Do not be put-off by the length of this recipe. While there are several steps and many ingredients, the directions are all relatively simple. If you love to cook, you’ll have a lot of fun making this dish. And remember, when you’re looking into the pan feeling certain that another quart of stock or three-dozen meatballs will not ever fit into your 3 qt. pot, believe me, it will.

Note: In the cookbook Lidia’s Family Table, Chef Bastianich includes a variation of this sugo with sausage meatballs. I have omitted directions for that recipe from this text.

Lidia's Family Table

Long-Cooked Sugo and Meatballs
by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich
from Lidia’s Family Table
© Knopf, 2004

About 2 quarts of sugo, to cook and serve with 3 dozen meatballs.

Frying the Soffritto and Starting the Sugo

For the soffritto
– 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
– 2 medium onions (3/4 pound), minced in a food processor
– 3 or 4 plump shallots, minced in a food processor
– 2 or 3 fat garlic cloves, minced in a food processor
– 1 large carrot, minced in a food processor
– 2 large stalks celery, minced in a food processor
– 5 or 6 fresh bay leaves
– 1/4 cup tomato paste

For the sugo
– One 35-ounce can San Marzano plum tomatoes and juices, passed through a food mill (4 cups)
– 8 to 12 cups or more hot Turkey Broth, Simple Vegetable Broth, or plain hot water (recipes for the broths are in the book, I used my own vegetable stock)
– 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more if needed
– 1 cinnamon stick

Pour the olive oil into the pan, drop in the onions and shallots, and set over medium-high heat. Stir for a minute or two, until the onions begin to sizzle.

Drop the garlic into a hot spot and spread it out to caramelize for a minute, then stir with the onions. Stir in the carrot and celery, and get them cooking; drop in the bay leaves and cook the soffritto for another 4 minutes until it is starting to dry out. Lower the heat if necessary to prevent burning.

Push the vegetables to the side and drop the tomato paste into a hot spot. Toast it for a minute or more, then blend it into the soffritto. Pour in the milled tomatoes and juices, and stir; slosh the tomato container with a cup of hot broth or water and stir that in too. Bring the sauce to a boil quickly, and cook over medium-high heat for 5 minutes or more, stirring frequently, until it has just begun to thicken.

Pour in 4 cups of the hot broth, stir it in, and note now the level of the liquid in the pan: this is about the level that the sugo should be at the very end of cooking, after the meatballs have been removed. Stir in another quart of the broth, and bring to a lively boil.

Submerge the cinnamon stick in the sauce. Cover the pot and adjust the heat to maintain a steady but gentle bubbling all over the surface of the sugo . Let it cook for at least an hour or longer, checking the pot every 20 minutes or so. It should be redicuing steadily. If it’s barely dropping, or not at all, raise the heat and set the cover ajar ot speed its concentration. If it’s dropping extremely fast, lower the heat to slow the evaporation. Add hot broth or water if needed to keep the sauce at the level you want.

Make the turkey meatballs while the sugo cooks. Once they are finished, complete the recipe as follows:

Have the sugo at a gentle simmer over low heat when the meatballs are fried and ready to go into the saucepan. Have hot broth or water on hand if needed. Drop the meatballs in one at a time; fit as many as you can in the bottom of the pan in one layer, but leave enough space to roll them around. Drop the rest of the meatballs in to make a second layer. Add hot broth or water if necessary so the meatballs are covered with liquid. Stir gently to mix the broth with the sugo – don’t break the meatballs! Cover the pan and raise the heat slightly to bring the sugo back to a simmer. Set the cover ajar and adjust heat to maintain steady simmering (but no threat of burning the meat on the bottom), and cook the meatballs for 35 to 40 minutes.

Turn off the heat and let the meatballs cool in the sugo and absorb more of its flavor (unless you need them right away). When cool, remove them to a big bowl. If the sauce is thin (probably well above the 2-quart mark), return it to a boil gradually and cook it uncovered to thicken. Stir frequently as it thickens; reduce it to the 2-quart level, or to whatever consistency you like – that’s the most important guideline. Taste the sauce during this final cooking, and add salt, if needed, or adjust the other seasonings.

Serve sauce and meatballs right away if you want. Otherwise, pack the meatballs in containers with enough sugo to cover and the rest of the sauce in separate containers. Portion them, for convenience, in the amounts you’ll use in different dishes. Store in the refrigerator for 4 days, or for several months in the freezer.

Making Turkey Meatballs with Pine Nuts and Golden Raisins

– 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
– 1 medium onion, finely chopped (about 3/4 cup)
– 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more as needed
– 4 slices dried white bread from a sandwich or big Italian loaf
– 1 to 2 cups milk
– 3 pounds ground turkey meat
– 3 large eggs, well beaten with a pinch of salt
– 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
– 1 1/2 tablespoons porcini powder (to make porcini powder, place dried porcini in a spice or coffee grinder, and pulverize them as fine as possible – for more notes on porcini, see Lidia’s Family Table)
– 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
– 3/4 cup golden raisins, plumped in warm water and drained
– 3/4 cup pine nuts, toasted in a dry skillet

Pour the olive oil into a medium skillet, drop in the minced onions, sprinkle with a pinch of salt, and set over medium-high heat, stirring until they begin to sizzle. Lower the heat and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion is wilted and slightly dry (but not colored). Scrape out of the pan and let cool.

Break up the dry bread slices into pieces roughly an inch or two across – you should have almost 4 cups – and put them in a shallow bowl or baking dish. Pour enough milk over to cover them, and soak for 4 to 5 minutes. When the pieces are completely soft, gather them in your hands and firmly squeeze out all the milk; you should have almost 1 cup of densely packed moist bread.

Loosen  up the turkey meat if it’s been compressed in packaging; spread it out in a large mixing bowl. Pour the beaten eggs on top, sprinkle on the parsley, porcini powder, salt, and freshly ground pepper. Scatter the drained raisins and pine nuts on the meat, then spread the cooled wilted onions on top. Break up the clump of wet bread, spreading little bits over the meat. Now fold, toss, and squeeze the meat and seasonings together with your hands and fingers to distribute all the ingredients evenly.

Spread the flour about 1/4 inch deep in the center of a baking sheet.

Pour vegetable oil into a large, heavy skillet or saute pan – 12 inches in diameter if possible – to a depth of at least 1/3 inch.

Scoop up a portion of meat with a small ice-cream scoop, a large spoon, or your fingers. Lightly shape the meat between your palms into 2-inch balls, a bit larger than golf balls (or whatever size you like). Drop each ball onto the floured sheet, roll it around until coated, then place it on another baking sheet. Form and flour all the meat balls in this manner.

Set the skillet over heigh heat until the oil is very hot. With tongs or a spatula, carefully transfer meatballs to the pan, as many as you can, leaving at least an inch or so between them. Cook for a minute or two, until they’ve starged to brown on the bottom, then turn them continuously – watch out for oil spatters – until golden-crusted on all sides, about 6 minutes. As they are done, transfer the fried meatballs to a baking sheet (I set them on a cooking rack atop a baking sheet to keep them dry – T). When all the meatballs are on the tray, sprinkle salt lightly over them (just a couple of pinches in all).

Note: The meatballs will finish cooking in the sauce; they are fried just until a golden crust forms. So, if you intend to eat them as is instead, be sure to fry them longer, until they are cooked through.

Before frying the next batch, turn off the heat and, with a fine-meshed skimmer or strainder, remove any browned bits from the oil. Add oil if needed to restore the 1/3 inch depth and heat it up again. (I must admit, I completely skipped this step. I found there was plenty of oil to fry 3 dozen meatballs in about four or five batches)

When all the meatballs are fried, cook them with the sugo following the instructions above.

Sugo and Turkey Meatballs with Pine Nuts and Raisins


October 19th, 2009

The past four days in the northeast have been particularly dreary. It has been overcast and wet, and much cooler than it should be in early autumn. Weather like this screams for comfort food that has been cooking for hours, filling the house with its fragrance and warming the soul, and what could be better on a Sunday than a rich, meaty Bolognese?

One of the most important things a good cook knows is how to build flavor. You’ll hear comments on this all the time on shows like “Top Chef.” How many times have we heard, “He doesn’t know how to build flavor,” or “I wish there was some acid,” or “This is the perfect balance of sweet and savory.” There are several ways to build flavor, often used in combination, such as reducing, salting, searing, and toasting. This Bolognese uses these techniques, but above all is the technique of browning. This should probably be called “Brown Bolognese.”

Chef Anne Burrell was one of my culinary school chef-instructors, and the best teacher we had when it came to technique and Italian cuisine. It is to her recipes I turn when I want to make great pasta. And so I used her recipe for Bolognese.

Bolognese Recipe:

I’ve edited this a bit from the original. Click here to see the recipe on the Food Network’s website.


  • 1 large onion or 2 small, 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, for the pan
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 pounds ground chuck, brisket or round or combination
  • 2 cups tomato paste
  • 1 750ml bottle (about 3.5 cups) hearty red wine
  • Water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 bunch thyme and 1 rosemary, tied in a bundle
  • 1 or 2 rinds of Parmigiano cheese (optional)
  • 1 pound pasta of choice
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • High quality extra-virgin olive oil, for finishing


1. 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 veggies and season generously with salt. Bring the pan to a medium-high heat and cook until all the water has evaporated and they become brown, stirring frequently, about 15 to 20 minutes.

2. Add the ground beef and season again generously with salt. Cook 15 to 20 minutes until beef is brown.

3. Add the tomato paste and cook until brown about 4 to 5 minutes, or however long it takes for the tomato paste to brown.

4. Add the red wine. Cook until the wine has reduced by half, another 4 to 5 minutes. Make sure it is reduced.

5. Add water to the pan until the water is about 1 inch above the meat. Toss in the bay leaves, the bundle of thyme/rosemary, and the Parmigiano rinds (if using), and stir to combine everything. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer, stirring occasionally. As the water evaporates you will gradually need to add more, about 1 to 2 cups at a time. Don’t be shy about adding water during the cooking process, you can always cook it out. This is a game of reduce and add more water. If you try to add all the water in the beginning you will have boiled meat sauce rather than a rich, thick meaty sauce. Stir and TASTE frequently. Season with salt, if needed. Simmer for 3 1/2 to 4 hours.

Note on pasta: When you cook your pasta, retain some of the pasta cooking liquid. Once you’ve added your pasta to the ragù, if you feel the pasta is too dry (it should be glistening somewhat), add a bit of the cooking water. The water you cooked your pasta in will have retained some of the pasta’s starch and will keep your sauce saucy, rather than watering it down. Drizzle a bit of olive oil and add Parmigiano-Reggiano on top. For this sauce, I’ve become fond of Barilla’s Campanelle. It has a lovely fluted shape that holds the sauce well.

How To Build Big Bolognese Flavor:

Beef: I strongly recommend rather than buying packaged “ground beef,” visit your butcher and ask him or her to grind particular cuts. It makes a difference in flavor and quality. For this recipe I used about 1 pound of ground bottom round and 2 pounds of ground chuck steak. One could also use ground bison or turkey. Some cuts have more fat, almost all have different flavors and textures. It’s worth exploring and discovering your personal preferences.

Herbs: In Chef Burrell’s recipe, she uses only thyme and bay. I add some rosemary simply because I like it. Some Bolognese recipes add nutmeg. It’s entirely up to the chef what flavors they want to add to their pots.

Wine: It is not necessary, but I like to use wine from the region of whatever region-specific dish I am cooking. One popular varietal from the Bologna region is Sangiovese, which is the main component of Chianti. Thus, I used Chianti for this recipe. This is merely a persnickety habit of mine, as I believe recipes from a particular region should use ingredients from the region. But whatever hearty, inexpensive red you can get your hands on will work just as well. Never break the bank buying wine you’ll be cooking with. Once you’ve concentrated the wine with the other flavors and cooked the alcohol out, you’ll barely be able to tell the difference whether you’ve used Italian Chianti or California Merlot.

Cheese Rind: Chef Burrell’s recipe does not note this, but I find that adding a rind or two of Parmigiano to a pot of soup or sauce adds a rich dimension. Nearly everyone who cooks has rinds floating around in the bottom of their cheese bins (and if they’re moldy, just cut the mold off). It’s not a crime if you don’t use it, but adding it is divine.


In step #1 you’ll be browning the aromatics. You’ll want a “crud” (or fond) to form in the bottom of your pan, thus you should use a steel or ceramic pan, not non-stick. The crud will darken until it looks nearly burnt. This is going to add flavor to your Bolognese! When browning the aromatics, take your time. For me it took nearly 30 minutes to get all the water out and get the vegetables to a deep brown color. You could keep a tiny bit of the vegetable paste uncooked to the side to see how the color changes over time. Remember, you want to brown the paste.

In step #2 you’ll be browning the beef. As the beef releases fat, you’ll be able to start scraping up the crud that formed earlier from the vegetables. Again, brown the beef, don’t gray it. It should be the color of something you’d want to eat, not something underdone.

In step #3 you’ll be browning the tomato paste. You’ll notice it’s a bright red when you add it (again, you could leave some raw to the side to get a sense of where you started). Brown, brown, brown. The tomato paste should not be at all red when you get to the next step.

In step #4 you’ll be reducing the wine. Reducing concentrates flavors. If you don’t reduce the wine, you’ll wind up with a very nice wine sauce with beef, but what you want is a meaty sauce with the richness of wine in the background. Again, this takes time. Depending on the heat of your pan and its depth, this might take four minutes or it could take longer. Don’t rush.

In step #5 you’ll add herbs and water, beginning the process of the long simmer, concentrating the beef, tomato, wine, and herbal flavors even further. Again, depending on heat and depth, you may wind up adding water more or less often, but make sure you add and reduce, add and reduce. Don’t add too much water. Chef Burrell’s recipe says you’ll add 2 or 3 cups at a time. I prefer to add less water more often, as I don’t want to boil the meat.

You’ll want the meat to be soft and unctuous and become the messenger of the sweetness of the aromatics, the acid of the tomato, and the earthiness of the cheese and herbs. Your house will be ten degrees warmer than the thermostat says, just from the aroma. I recommend eating while wearing pajamas and slippers.