As you may recall, the theme for this years party was an East Tennessee Italian Fest and the menu was built around a pasta bar thanks to the suggestion from Dave Scott. My primary contribution to this effort was a Bolonese Sauce using the recipe from Ann Burrell, which I had last made four years ago.
The sauce takes about five hours to make and is based on a philosophy of slowly enriching it with layers of flavor.
Bolonese Ala Ann Burrell
2 large onions, cut into 1-inch dice
4 large carrots, cut into 1/2-inch dice
6 ribs celery, cut into 1-inch dice
8 cloves garlic
Extra-virgin olive oil, for the pan
6 pounds ground chuck
4 cups tomato paste
6 cups hearty red wine (2 bottles)
6 bay leaves
2 bunches thyme, tied in a bundle
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 nice and brown, stirring frequently, about 15 to 20 minutes. Be patient, this is where the big flavors develop.
2. Add the ground beef and season again generously with salt. BROWN THE BEEF! Brown food tastes good. Don't rush this step. Cook another 15 to 20 minutes.
3. Add the tomato paste and cook until brown about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the red wine. Cook until the wine has reduced by half, another 4 to 5 minutes.
4. Add water to the pan until the water is about 1 inch above the meat. Toss in the bay leaves and the bundle of thyme 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 2 to 3 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. This is where big rich flavors develop. 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 (you probably will).
5. Simmer for 3 1/2 to 4 hours.
Notes: I made a double batch so all of my times up to the simmering process took longer. The last hour, I added some oregano, thyme, black pepper, and crushed red pepper to taste. I made it Wednesday before the Saturday event then skimmed the fat and reheated it in the crockpot.
Photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.
Have a great day and thanks for stopping by Almost Heaven South.
6/5/14 event date