Yesterday, it was freezing outside. Today it has been warmer but is wet and miserable. I guess we can't win on the weekend front in the Northeast. The only plus side is that this means the weather has been perfect for baking and for making hearty meals.
I'd had a craving for a Ragu alla Bolognese. This rich, slow-cooked meat sauce is the basis for many a wonderful dish in Bologna, Italy. One recipe that I've found to be pretty reliable in taste and texture is from Claudia Roden's The Good Food of Italy. I have used several recipes out of this cookbook over the years. Her rendition of this classic meat sauce is the one that I have used to make my own Lasagna Bolognese (omitting the mushrooms).
Although two hours or so of cooking time might seem like unnecessary labor for a pasta sauce, this is no ordinary thing to pull together. On a day when it was too cold to venture far from the apartment, having to watch this cook away on the stovetop was a great excuse for going nowhere. The vegetables get to meld together before adding the meat, then the wine, then slowly simmering everything in stock. The flavors take time to build and meld into meaty richness combined with a backnote of tang from the tomato paste. The cream at the end emphasizes the velvety nature of this sauce on your tongue, like wrapping yourself in a blanket on a cold night while sitting on the sofa.
The finished sauce in the pan might not look like much to the unaccustomed eye, but when it is poured over garganelli, the truth comes out. Dusted with parmesan, this was my lunch today, as I watched it continue to pour outside of my window. My stomach was full and my soul was satisfied, even if I couldn't actually be in Italy.