Dear Marian,

My latest issue of Cook’s illustrated came to me right before Christmas time. I immediately picked out the master of all recipes and planned to make it hung-over on New Year’s Day – my favorite hangover activity. After a week of Italian between Christmas and NYE, filled with many pasta dishes, Roberta’s in Brooklyn with Izzy (yummy  pizza) and making pizza at home, this plan was botched and I gave myself a two week Italian hiatus. MLK came around and my office decided to give us the day off, which was perfect because now I had time to 1) make this amazing receipt and 2) install the back splash in my kitchen that I have wanted to do for months now.

Onto the recipe. This bad boy of a pasta dish is a Ragu alla Bolognese, which calls for six different types of meat, from four different animals. Ground Beef, Pork, and Veal are included in the opening act, with ground pancetta and mortadella in act 2, and ending with pureed (aka liquid) chicken livers. Yes you heard me right.

Cook’s Illustrated Ragu alla Bolognese

I did all of the prep work after lunch, so when it came down to actually cooking this for dinner it was a lot easier than it looks on paper – you literally ad one item (bowl) after the next, until all ingredients are incorporated. For the prep: in one bowl mix together (or just throw in) ¾ pound of ground veal, pork and beef. Mine were not quite this ratio, but you take what you can get at Whole Foods (about a LB of beef, .81 pork, and .78 veal, close enough). The second bowl contained 1 onion, 1 carrot, and 1 stalk of celery which I finely chopped in a food processor. The third, 4 ounces of pancetta (one of those small containers of diced is just right), 4 ounces of mortadella, which was also finely chopped in a food processor. I also added to this three tablespoons of fresh chopped sage.  Now for the finale: In a food processor, puree/grind/liquefy 6 ounces of chicken livers. If you are making this for guests, just tell them it is liquefied beets or something. Yum.

The Bolognese starts off by cooking the three ground meets in a tablespoon of olive oil. While this was happening I mixed 1 package of unflavored gelatin (all four packs within the box, which is 8 tablespoons) with 2 cups of beef broth until the crystals were completely dissolved (the first of only two things I did differently than the recipe, which calls for one cup beef and one cup chicken). When the meat is no longer pink and they are nicely mixed together I added in the second bowl of minced meat and the sage. I cooked this until the fat was rendered and then added in the bowl of veggies along with a generous amount of minced garlic (the original recipe doesn’t call for garlic, which I think is obscene). When those became opaque I added in 1 6 ounce can of tomato paste, which I made sure to completely cover all of the ingredients. Next came two cups of dry red wine, which worked in picking up all of the loose and crispy bits at the bottom of the pan, and then the broth mixture (which by now was a super weird consistency and kind of grossed me out). I let this sit just slightly simmering for about an hour and a half, until the liquid had evaporated and the sauce had thickened up nicely. And now for the hard part – mixing in the pureed chicken livers and then seasoning with salt and pepper, it is painful to write and it was painful to see, but totally worth it.

Luckily, Adam and I happened to venture north to Eatily that morning, so I picked up a pound of freshly made whole wheat tagliatella pasta. This made the dish, I will 100% say that. The pasta was so perfectly tender and held on to the sauce and meat bits wonderfully. With freshly grated parmesan and minced fresh basil – you will be in heaven. When the pasta was al dente, I drained it, reserving ¾ cup of the cooking water which I threw back into the pot along with half of the meat sauce.

Note to self, and the best part, this recipe makes enough for two pounds of pasta. I made one pound of fresh and we had enough food for six people. So even though this seems terribly long and time consuming, you will have TWO amazing meals a head of you! My second half is in a freezer bag right now waiting for me to warm it up!

Luckily, I had three lovely people to enjoy this decadent meal with me and help me out a little around the kitchen! Mike helped with tossing the salad, while Lauren prepped dessert – lovely baked apples with dried fruit, granola, agave syrup and ice cream on the side. The perfect light dessert after a mildly heavy past dish!   

I hope LA is treating you well. I was super pissed off when Dorito’s didn’t choose your commercial for the Super Bowl. I think they made a horrible mistake. Their loss. Counting down the days until we get to see each other – although I doubt you are because that means you will be 30. Haha, I am mean!

Love you,

Melanie