An Excellent Meat Sauce
I once mentioned a meat sauce many months ago on the blog and never gave the recipe. For some reason I didn't take a picture of the finished sauce, which is odd because these days I am taking more pictures of food than of my kids. So you will have to make due with just a recipe today. Not so interesting, but, hi ho, so it goes.
1 lb. extra lean ground beef
2 sweet Italian sausages, peeled and crumbled – as best you can
1 onion, finely diced
2 carrots, finely diced
1 small head fresh fennel, finely diced
a few pinches of salt
2 or more cloves of garlic, minced
a few pinches of dried herbs, such as marjoram and savory
1 cup red wine
2 - 796 ml tins of tomatoes, crushed,diced or whole (I know, 796 you say! Crazy Canucks!)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup milk – the fatter the better!
a generous clump of fresh basil still on the stem
1. In a fry pan gently cook the ground beef and crumbled (as best you can, I always find they are kind of sticky) sausages, breaking up the meat into small, rubbley bits while it cooks. Marcella Hazan says that if you cook the meat slowly it will be tenderer. I shall not be the one to argue with the matriarch of Italian cooking. When the meat is just cooked, remove from the heat and reserve.
2. Meanwhile in a 5 quart pan, sauté the onions, carrots, anise, salt and dried herbs on medium until softened and a pale gold. Adding the salt at this stage draws out the juices from the vegetables, and these juices kind of reduce to give the softened veggies that golden stickiness. Toss in the minced garlic and cook until fragrant and softened. Don’t brown the garlic.
3. Turn up the heat a little under the vegetables and add the red wine. Let it bubble until it has reduced down by about half, then add the tinned tomatoes and paste. Give it a good stir, add the milk. Let it all cook together for about an hour.
4. Puree the tomato sauce. I like to use my hand blender in a dangerous game of Hot Italian Tomato Sauce Roulette. I just jam the hand blender into the sauce and whirr away, making sure the head of the blender stays at the bottom of the pot. Millimeters too close to the surface and I am covered with steaming saucy welts and the kitchen is filled with curses. You may want to use the more traditional and less risky, (although perhaps not by much) method of a food mill. Of course you could just let the sauce cool a bit before doing anything, but that’s just not as interesting, is it?
5. You could now use the tomato sauce as is, or cook it a little longer, (first add the basil bunch to the sauce, pushing it down deep) to give it a more concentrated flavour. Or, you can continue with the recipe.
6. Add the cooked meat to the tomato sauce, and the bunch of basil, jamming it down well into the sauce. Let the sauce cook on low heat, partly covered to keep the splatter factor down, for about 4 hours. Stir occasionally, adding a little water if you think the sauce is getting too thick. Haul out the sadly wilted basil stem before using.