18 March 2011

I just keep making this Bolognese

One of the happy, unexpected outcomes of food-blogging for me has been learning how to take better photographs.  While I humbly acknowledge I'm still a newbie at this (hey I'm still just using a point-and-shoot digital camera here!), there are a few things that I've learned that have taken things from "eeek" to "yum."  First, turn off the flash!  Second, use only natural light.  Third, choose your angle well (angle between light, food, and camera).  Of course, this can pose problems if you have an exquisite night-time dinner you want to capture, but thankfully there are the weekends for leisurely lunches enjoyed during daylight hours that are prime foodography material.

For example, the Sunday lunch.

In my family, we have the Italian tradition of Sunday dinner, a midday meal of pasta.  Usually, we top our pasta off with meatballs and sausage that have been simmered for hours in a rich, red tomato sauce, but sometimes we go with a bolognese or carbonara sauce.

Since some friends were recently asking me about a good bolognese recipe, and since I enjoy this dish so much, I wanted to repost my all-time favorite bolognese sauce.  Being the descendant of Neapolitans, I sadly have no family recipe for this dish hailing from the more northern region of Emilia-Romagna.  However, many years ago I came across a fantastic recipe from Williams and Sonoma that I keep on using every time I want a great bolognese.  To get the right depth of flavor, you need a combination of pork and beef, as well as a lot of time.  You see, the magic happens sometime in the process of several hours of cooking (the more the better), yielding a rich sauce of tomato and parmesan cheese melded together with bits of pancetta and beef.

So, same recipe here as before, but this time with some updated photos!  I got a kick out of comparing these photos with my earlier post.

Spaghetti Bolognese
Serves 4-6

4 oz. pancetta, finely diced
1/2 onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 lbs. ground beef
1 tsp. salt
6 oz. tomato paste
1/3 cup finely grated parmigiano reggiano
1 cup milk
ground black pepper

1 lb. spaghetti
Minced Italian parsley or whole fresh basil, for garnish
Extra parmigiano reggiano for the table

Saute pancetta in a large pot over medium heat, until fat is rendered and pancetta is crisp.  Drain pancetta on paper towels and wipe out pot.  Return pancetta to pot and add diced onions, continuing to cook until onions are soft.  Add the garlic and stir until fragrant, then add ground beef and sprinkle with salt.

Cook ground beef, breaking up lumps, until meat is no longer pink.  Add tomato paste, grated cheese, and milk, and stir to combine.  Cover sauce and simmer on low heat 2 hours.  Skim off fat, and then, for the best sauce, continue to simmer 2-4 more hours.  Check seasoning and add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, then cook spaghetti until al dente.  Scoop spaghetti from boiling water and add to bolognese sauce, adding cooking water from the pasta pot as needed to loosen the sauce.  Stir to coat spaghetti strands with sauce.

To serve, mound spaghetti into wide bowls, scoop extra meat over, and sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley or garnish with a sprig of basil.  Pass extra parmigiano and black pepper at the table.


the Junkie book said...

hmm...i goof up on the third step in photo...which i guess is the difficult...the first and second pretty much easy ;P

i don think you have to go for another camera coz comparing results...these pics are equally good. i like the clarity and the simplicity of your presentation...

Susan said...

You can never go wrong witha great plate of pasta and gravy ... love how the house smells while it cooks up ...

erica said...

mmm, yes, the smells ARE wonderful!

The Church Cook said...

Erica, you are doing amazing photos with your point & shoot!! And this looks divine any time of the day! :)

erica said...

oh, thanks Kay! after a couple years, I do think I've figured out how to use this camera! :) But, some exciting news is that Santa's late delivery finally arrived a couple weeks ago--my very first DSLR! I've only had a chance to try a few test shots out so far, but I hope to get up to speed on it soon!

Anonymous said...

Did not know you were using only a point and shoot... so I'm sure your DSLR photos will be even more amazing! I still have trouble with the whole composition bit :(

erica said...

yeah, getting the composition right is hard for me still too...i just end up taking lots of pictures from different angles and then later go through them and pick the ones that look the best. it would be nice, though, just to have an eye for composition before taking tons of shots!

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