savor the moment

perfecting the "done before they arrive" party- a work in progress

Categories: Grains and Pasta, Dinner for Two, Supper, Dinner Party, Fête Fact, Posted on December 25, 2017 by Sandy Bergsten

One the best gifts is to truly connect with another. And there isn’t a better place around than your very own dining room table.

One of my favorite things I’m going to carry forward into the new year is inviting just one other couple over for dinner. There is something special about spending the evening in such an intimate setting. And because the group is small you can pull out all the stops and truly splurge. This might mean an excellent cut of meat, a wine you’ve been storing with care, or dish that demands your time and attention.

Gifted cooks know what makes a meal truly memorable isn’t skill or knowledge, rather preparing your dishes with love and intention. Give it a try. Consciously stir loving thoughts about those you going to feed into what you are making. You’ll be amazed how much better even your most tried and true recipes will taste.

Right before Christmas I picked up some caviar, pulled two old bottles from my cellar, and settled down with my dog-eared copy of Marcella Hazan’s Classic Italian Cook Book. If you don’t have this quintessential bible to Italian fare go online and send yourself a post-holiday present. She’s the Italian take on Julia Child, and has the uncanny ability to demystify the essence of Italian cooking for the American kitchen.

Her Bolognese is truly to die for. The ingredients couldn’t be more humble- ground beef, chopped onion, carrot, celery, whole milk, white wine, crushed tomatoes and beef broth. The magic isn’t in the ingredients, it comes from the hours of simmering and stirring. Yes, I said hours. It will take you roughly 4-5 hours to make a true Bolognese from start to finish.

It isn’t hard, you just have to simmer and stir. Giving you the perfect opportunity to stir loving thoughts, happy memories, and wishful dreams about each and every person who will take in this transcendent sauce. And fear not, you can multitask. Just be sure to task away near your kitchen, because you really are going to want to stir it every few minutes.

For the Bolognese sauce heat 1 Tbsp. oil in a large deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add ground beef with a big pinch of kosher salt and a few grindings of fresh pepper and cook, stirring often, until brown and cooked through, for about 4–5 minutes.

Scrape into a bowl and set aside.

Place the roughly chopped carrots, celery and onion in a food processor.

Pulse the onion, carrots, and celery until finely chopped.

Wipe the skillet clean and add remaining 3 Tbsp. oil; heat over medium heat. Add the onion mixture and cook, stirring often over medium-low heat until softened, about 20 minutes. Take care not to let it brown.

Stir in the browned meat. Add the milk and simmer, stirring frequently until the milk has bubbled away completely. Add a small grating of nutmeg.

Add a cup of white wine and simmer until it has evaporated. Add the beef broth.

Stir in the tomatoes and ½ teaspoon of sugar. Let simmer.

Simmer and simmer over low heat stirring occasionally, until the flavors meld and the sauce thickens for about three hours. Season the sauce to taste with salt, pepper.

Do Ahead- this sauce is best made a day or two ahead of time. Cool completely, cover and refrigerate. Once it is chilled transfer to an airtight container. Gently re-warm over a low heat, stirring frequently. And feel free to double recipe and freeze the extra sauce in two-person portions, making the perfect date-night any night.

Those from Bologna, Italy traditionally serve this sauce over tagliatelle. I like to serve it on bucatini, a thin hollow tube pasta that at first glance resembles spaghetti but tastes nothing like it.

Now just set your table with care and let the memories begin.

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