Pasta Bolognese Style
Throughout its history, Philadelphia has always been a place of neighborhoods, those most frequently identified by nationalities.
Early immigrants from individual countries arrived, Irish, Germans, Welsh, Polish, and on, then together settled into sections of the many row homes that line along the city streets.
It’s even so today as new immigrants arrive, Koreans, Vietnamese, Cambodian and more.
When I was growing up, South Philadelphia, the location of the famous ‘Rocky’ movie was always the Italian section.
The Italian section hosts what now has become more commonly referred to as the 9th street market, but when I was growing up it was always called the ‘Italian Market.’ The Italian Market located on 9th Street, that is.
In between the corners of Italian restaurants that dotted the streets were the homes of the Italian families, many who even had second kitchens in the basements of their homes as to keep clean the main kitchen.
The top kitchen was the actual family meal serving area where it was always noted that just hours after Sunday mass at the local parish church, Sunday dinner of course upon course commenced.
One distinct flavor of the Sunday dinner always included, of course, tomato sauce, which was most always referred to in the Italian section as ‘Tomato Gravy’
The red sauce lovingly prepared by the mother of the home was raved about by all family members in any self-respecting family, and her Tomato Gravy was always deemed to be the best.
You could even feel a bit of emotional tension between children whenever referring to their own mothers Tomato Gravy, even where families might be subtly criticized as their gravy being too sweet, or too tart, and with everyone solemnly swearing that they would never, ever, ever, under the purge of death eat anyone else’s Tomato Gravy except that of their own mothers.
This must have meant one exclusion, that being, eating out at any of the local Italian restaurants.
I can’t imagine anyone saying, give me anything on the menu BoBo, all except that which has any tomato gravy, for in those days everything was swimming in it.
I had two favorites at the Italian section restaurants in the city, Lasagna and Pasta Bolognese.
Pasta Bolognese Style was not merely tomato gravy, nor was it your everyday tomato gravy in meat sauce.
Pasta Bolognese Style was an elaborately composed tomato sauce with distinctive flavors all melodiously coming together between vegetables, mushrooms, and meat, and to me, it was heavenly.
Some years later, upon ordering Pasta Bolognese as an adult I became aware of some others among those distinctive ingredient flavors in the mix, the depth of dried porcini mushrooms, and fresh and dried herbs. Today, Pasta Bolognese is one of my absolute most favorite dishes to prepare, tending to each ingredient addition with the distinctive flavors melodiously coming together, well, sort of like an Italian mother living in the Italian neighborhood section of the city preparing Sunday dinner, as part of course upon course. And that my friends, is what they call Amore.
- 8 pieces dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in one cup boiling water, liquid reserved
- 3/4 pound beef cubes diced into small pieces
- 5 tablespoons olive oil, plus more
- 1 large onion
- 2-3 stalks celery
- 2 carrots, peeled
- 1 cup fresh mushrooms, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic
- handful thyme, leaves removed from stems
- 1 long sprig rosemary, leaves removed from stems, chopped
- 2 sprigs fresh dried oregano, leaves removed from stems, chopped, or scant teaspoon dried
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/2 generous teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 1/2 pounds ground beef
- 1 can tomato paste
- 1 cup red wine
- 2 cups beef stock
- 1 large can whole tomatoes
- 1 jar tomato sauce
- coarse kosher salt
- fresh cracked pepper
- Place dried porcini mushrooms into a bowl, pour over 1 cup of boiling water, set aside
- Brown diced beef in a large skillet with a bit of olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, transfer to a plate, set aside
- One vegetable at a time- pulse onion, celery, and carrots in the bowl of a food processor to a small dice,
- Pour olive oil into a heavy, lidded soup pot on very low heat
- Add in the onion, carrots, and celery, cook for ten minutes, tumble in the chopped fresh mushrooms, stir, sprinkle with a pinch or two of salt and pepper
- Remove soaked porcini mushrooms from the soaking liquid, reserve the liquid, chop finely, stir into vegetables
- Stir garlic into the pot along with the thyme, rosemary, oregano, and bay leaves, stir and cook for 2 minutes
- Sprinkle in the nutmeg, stir
- Add in the ground beef, stir to blend with the vegetables, cook until just done, around twelve minutes
- Tip in the browned, diced beef, along with any accumulated juices, stir, cook three minutes
- Spoon in the tomato paste, stir, cook another few minutes
- Pour in the red wine, increase temperature to medium heat, reducing, around 5 minutes
- Pour in the beef stock, reserved porcini liquid and the can of whole tomatoes, bring to a early boil then reduce heat to low
- Simmer the sauce for at a least a half hour or longer, stirring intermittently
- Pour in the jar of tomato sauce, continue simmering another half-hour or longer until sauce is thickened
- Sprinkle in a few pinches coarse kosher salt, stir, check seasoning, adjust according to taste Grind in some fresh cracked pepper
- Toss sauce with cooked fettuccine topping with some fresh grated Parmesan cheese
Bolognese Sauce improves flavor the following day and also freezes well.