One of my favorite meals to make for loved ones is the bolognese sauce from Al Forno in Providence, R.I. The aromas that waft from the kitchen while making this dish are intoxicating.
George’s Meat Sauce
1 large onion, peeled
1 carrot scraped
1/2 bulb of fresh fennel
3 tablespoons of virgin olive oil
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter (Whoa, I know. If you are watching out for heart health, I cut the serving in half and use a little chicken stock)
1 tablespoon ground fennel seed
1 teaspoon of kosher salt
1 pound of ground pork or beef, or a combo of both. I prefer the “meatloaf mix” that you can find at the market, just ask the butcher. This is ground pork, beef and veal.
1/2 cup of dry white wine. (And a nice healthy pour for the cook)
1/2 cup of chopped canned tomatoes in heavy puree
1 1/2 pounds of pasta. Rigatoni or penne work best because the meat sauce gets trapped in its ridges but really any pasta will work.
Small wedge of Parmigiano-Reggiano for grating.
1. Finely mince the onion, carrot and fresh fennel bulb. You can do this by hand or by food processor. The food processor helps speed up the sauteing time.
2. Heat the 3 tablespoons of olive oil and 4 tablespoons of butter in a heavy-bottomed pot. (If you’re concerned with the amount of butter, use 2 tablespoons and a splash of chicken stock)
Add minced vegetables. Saute over low heat, stirring occasionally, until they are very soft and have almost melted into a puree. This can take about 30 min and requires patience. The vegetables must be soft before proceeding with the recipe.
3. Add ground fennel seed and salt. Saute for 2 minutes and then add the meat. Raise the heat and saute, stirring, until the meat is no longer pink.
4. Add the white wine. Refill the chef’s glass. And cook gently, stirring occasionally, until almost all the wine has evaporated., about 30 min. Make sure to keep an eye on it because it may evaporated much earlier.
Add the tomatoes and cook for an additional 15 min. until they are absorbed into the sauce.
5. Bring 5 quarts of salted water to a boil in a stockpot.
6. Drop pasta into hot water and cook until it is al dente, 4-5 minutes. Drain and add the pasta to the sauce , toss for 1-2 minutes.
Now here’s where you may think Paula Deen made this dish: Cut up the remaining 8 tablespoons of butter and add to the pasta. Continue to toss until the butter melts and combines with the sauce.
Serve immediately. Pass the Parm-Regg for guest to grate over their pasta.