At our house, we like to have a homemade Sunday dinner, just a little something my lady and I can enjoy having made together. And by together, I mean that I do the cooking, and she asks me “honey do you need any help good I’ll watch over the dogs let me know if you need any help but really don’t we’re good here I’ll do the cleaning afterwards I don’t trust you to do it well.”
(She’s right, by the way, I didn’t make up the name Adam’s Messy Kitchen as satire. Division of labor rules!)
When we first started doing this – which wasn’t something intentional but kind of happened organically, just like our love for each other…AWWWW…or white nationalism OH GOD I JUST HAD TO GO OFF AND RUIN IT AND I WONDER WHY I WAS SINGLE FOR SO LONG!! – I asked her what she’d like me to make. She said that she loves Pasta Bolognese, which sounded absolutely wonderful.
I’ve made plenty of tomato sauces before, but never specifically a Bolognese, so I looked at some recipes to get an idea of what might work. The first one that popped up was by Marcella Hazan, author of the gold standard easy tomato sauce recipe. So this had to be a gem, right?
Everything looks really good, until I got down to step 4, and then this happened:
While the sauce is cooking, you are likely to find it begins to dry out and the fat separates from the meat. To keep it from sticking, add 1/2 cup of water whenever necessary. At the end, however, no water at all must be left and the fat must separate from the sauce.
Da fuq does that mean? How exactly am I going to know that the fat separated from the sauce? Does the fat gather in the formation of the band members of Journey and start reenacting the Separate Ways video? And what if it became really attached to the meat after all the time they’ve spent together, and it revolts against chemistry and science and screams HELL NO, I WON’T GO? And I don’t appreciate the authoritarian feel of saying that no water MUST be left. And what if there is some left, does the pot get sucked into the upside down with Hopper (oh yes, Joyce, he’s alive, #JusticeforHopper)?
The dispiriting thing was, I found that about 75% of the recipes online had similar instructions. Thankfully, there were a few that weren’t so out there, so I used those to create my own recipe to build a better world…one where fats and meats can live in harmony, free of the fear that cooks will try and pull them apart to satisfy “authentic Italian cooking” standards…
So, here’s everything you’ll need to make my Bolognesish recipe – at least everything that I remembered at the time I took the picture:
To start, we need to tackle the raw vegetables. If you have a food processor, I’m going to highly recommend using that to break them down. You want the pieces to be around the same size and shape of the ground beef. If you don’t have one, you can cut them up small and it won’t be a big deal. Or, if you have mad knife skills, you can dice them up fine without the food processor.
(You’re reading this blog, you don’t have mad knife skills.)
If you use the food processor, you are still going to have to cut the celery and onions into at least large chunks (unless you want to shove them in whole, in which case, make sure you post that video to YouTube!), and the carrots into smaller chunks. Make sure you do the mushrooms separately from the other vegetables.
Now, to clean the mushrooms, you can do it one of two ways:
- Wipe each mushroom individually with a damp paper towel, pausing every few mushrooms to wring it out and get excess dirt off of it, and after you’ve only cleaned 7 mushrooms in 10 minutes drop to your knees and scream WHY GOD DID YOU HAVE TO MAKE MUSHROOMS SIT IN THAT FILTHY DIRT WHY COULDN’T THEY GROW ON TREES LIKE PEACHES OR BUCKEYES BUT NOT THE ONES THAT URBAN MEYER LETS GET AWAY WITH DOMESTIC VIOLENCE!!!
- Throw the mushrooms into a bowl, fill it with water, and toss them around a bit, drain it and repeat.
OH NOOOO, IT’S THE MUSHROOM POLICE!!!
See, “they” want you to think that allowing water to touch a mushroom for more than 1/4 second is going to into chewy water, because Rachael Ray once said that mushrooms are like sponges, so it must be true. Really, swirling them around in a bowl of water for a few seconds isn’t going to do anything to them, and they’re going to cook for so long that any water they do retain is going to be released anyways. And by doing this, you’re saving a bunch of paper towels. Look at you, Mr./Mrs./Ms./Non-binary identifying Environmentalist! You’re going to be the posterperson for the Green New Deal, AOC is going to be calling you any day now!
Anyways, you can cut the mushrooms into large chunks (stem them first, they get kind of nasty and it makes it a lot easier to clean them), but process them in two batches, the ones at the bottom break down very fast, and if you stuff too many in at one time that’s what she said they’re going to be pulverized by the time the ones at the top touch the blade. This is what everything should look like when you’re done chopping.
The only other item you need to prep at this point is the tomatoes. In hindsight, I would probably have used two cans of tomatoes instead of one – tomatoes aren’t a typical ingredient in Bolognese, but since we’ve established that traditional recipes are racist, I have no problem chucking them in.
You want to dump the tomatoes into a bowl, liquid and all, and squish them with your hands. Don’t be too gentle with them, they should break down into small pieces, so really get into it. Think about your ex…or your boss…or why Dances With Wolves and Crash won Best Picture over Goodfellas and Brokeback Mountain and don’t get me started on The Green Book!!!
(pro tip: before you go too crazy on them, make sure you puncture each one, otherwise there’s a non-zero chance that their tomato guts are going to explode all over the place.)
Once you’ve got your vegetables prepped and the tomatoes in full submission, you can start to cook the sauce.
I started with a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a big old stock pot, warmed it up on medium heat, and then I threw in the mushrooms.
Technically, this is another violation of mushroom law, since you’re not supposed to overcrowd the pot with mushrooms because they will steam and not brown. Again, they’re going to cook for so long that it doesn’t much matter, and none of the vegetables are going to get browned in this anyways. And, if the mushroom police didn’t get you on the soaking violation, they’re not going to come after you over this.
After a few minutes, toss the onion/celery/carrot mixture in, stir everything up, and leave them in there for a good while. Let the flavors get to know each other, become friends, start gossiping amongst each other (have you heard about the carrot in the upper right quadrant? Total slut, she’ll do it with any root vegetable, where do you think that got the carrabaga from?), but not for so long that they decide that theirs is the superior quadrant and create Veggie Gilead.
Once they’ve been in there for a while and released most of their water, but before full scale oppression takes place, throw the ground beef in and let it brown up for a while. Ground beef will keep the unruly vegetables in line, it’s like Switzerland with the power of a G-5 nation.
Once the meat is cooked down and you start to see a little bit of browning, add the wine and let it cook off for a few minutes. This isn’t a “they” say cooking rule, this is a your dish will taste really wine-y and crappy if you don’t do it rule. Feel free to not cook it off, but pics or it didn’t happen.
After a few minutes, then yes, you can add the rest of the ingredients to the pot, and bring everything up to a boil, and then reduce the heat and let it simmer for a couple hours.
This is where I remembered that there were a couple ingredients I didn’t include in the original picture. If I had Photoshop skills, I would have found a way to crop those in, like how they have to mess with those team photos where two players got traded to the team three days after the picture, and they tried to paste their heads over the two that got cut after a night out with Pacman Jones.
But I don’t, so soy sauce and fish sauce.
These seem like weird ingredients to throw into an Italian dish, but they add a meaty flavor to the dish, because they have glutamates. What are glutamates…fuck, I don’t know, they’re like electrolytes in Idiocracy.
Also, I threw in a few anchovy filets, which have the same property but they’re Italian, so it doesn’t seem too weird.
Check out the sort of foamy orange stuff on the top. That’s grease and other nastiness, you’ll want to skim that off as it cooks. You don’t have to get all of it, but if you leave it behind it’s going to leave a real greasy aftertaste in your mouth.
About a half hour before you want to eat, get your pasta water boiling. I would give it a couple handfuls of kosher salt. The old trope that “they” like to say is that your water should taste like the sea. Well, I don’t live by the sea, and the last Sea Water ‘R’ Us outlet near me closed last month, so I can only guess as to what it might taste like.
Another ingredient I forgot to take a picture of, and was completely used up by the time I realized it, is the fresh basil. Throw a bunch in about five minutes before you end cooking the sauce.
Then boil your pasta, drain, and serve yourself a bowl or plate of non-authentic non-racist Bolognesish!
Serves 4 hungry people, 6 with a regular appetite
2 T olive oil
2 medium onions, peeled and chopped large
2 celery stalks, chopped large
2 carrots, peeled and chopped large
1 pound crimini mushrooms, stems removed, washed and cut large
1 pound ground beef
1/2 cup red wine
3 cups low sodium chicken broth
2 28 oz cans whole peeled tomatoes
3 T tomato paste
2 T soy sauce
1 T fish sauce
3 anchovy filets
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, sliced into small ribbons
1 pound dry pasta shape of your choice
Salt and pepper to taste
Place half of the celery, carrots, and onions into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the pieces are the size of the ground beef strands. Empty contents into a large bowl. Repeat with the other half.
Repeat the same steps with the mushrooms.
Empty the tomato cans into a separate large bowl. Crush the tomatoes by hand into small pieces.
In a large pot, pour in the oil and heat over medium-high heat for a couple minutes. Add the mushrooms and saute until they start to release liquid, about 5 minutes. Add the onion mixture and continue to saute until most of their moisture is released, about 15 minutes.
Add the ground beef, and continue to cook until the beef has released its liquid and begun to slightly brown, about 10-15 minutes.
Pour in the red wine and allow to reduce for a few minutes.
Add the broth, tomatoes, tomato paste, soy sauce, fish sauce, and anchovies to the pot. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to maintain a simmer for 1 1/2 hours, skimming the fat from the top periodically.
About 30 minutes before serving, fill a large pot with water for the pasta. Generously salt the water, and bring to a boil. Add the pasta and cook for the prescribed time.
When the sauce is ready, remove from the heat and add the basil leaves. Stir to incorporate.
Drain the finished pasta, plate, and top with sauce.