Saturday, February 7, 2009
From Miranda's Kitchen: Sunday Spaghetti
An hour and a half of your time on a Sunday afternoon turns out this rich, hearty sauce - great for dinner that night or to be reheated with freshly boiled pasta during your busy week ahead. Leave the canned sauce behind forever!
Serves 4 (plus leftovers)
1 28 ounce can of whole, peeled San Marzano Italian tomatoes
2 Tbs tomato paste
1 fresh Roma tomato (finely diced)
1 lb high quality ground beef (grass-fed is the most flavorful)
1 small yellow onion, finely diced
3 cloves of fresh garlic, peeled and finely diced
2 tsp dried oregano (the fresher, the better)
1 tsp dried basil (again, fresh is best)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
3 slices of bacon, cut into lardons
3 dried red chilies
Heat a large saucepot on the stove over medium-high heat. Immediately add the lardons, stirring occasionally as they heat, render their fat, and begin to crisp. Once crisp, remove the lardons from the pot, but leave their rendered fat behind.
Shred the dried chilies and add them to the hot bacon fat (be careful not to burn them) and stir for about 30 seconds. Add 1 Tbs of olive oil and then the diced onion. Stir to combine and then add the dried herbs and garlic powder. Stir this mixture occasionally over medium-high heat for about 10 minutes or until the onions are soft and translucent. Add the minced garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, for another 3 minutes.
Remove the onion and spice mixture from the pan and reserve in a bowl. Add another Tbs of olive oil to the pan and add the ground beef, along with about 2 tsp of kosher salt. Cook the beef, stirring and breaking up the clumps, until it is fragrant and beginning to lose its pink color (the beef should still be pink in the center when you remove it from the pan). Remove the beef from the pan and add it to the reserved onion mixture. Leave the oil and beef juices behind and let them reduce slightly over high heat.
Add the tomato paste to the beef juices and oils. Stir vigorously and then add the finely diced fresh Roma tomato - cook until the tomato is reduced to a paste.
Meanwhile, open the can of San Marzano tomatoes and separate the tomatoes from the sauce. Roughly chop the tomatoes on a cutting board into smaller pieces. After the fresh Roma tomato has reduced to a paste-like consistency, add the chopped canned tomatoes along with their sauce. Stir and bring the tomato mixture to a low but steady boil. Cover the pot and let it cook (stirring occasionally) for about 15 minutes.
After the tomato mixture has reduced and combined, add the beef, onion and spice mixture, and reserved bacon. Pour about a cup of water into the tomato can to capture any sauce clinging to the side and pour this into the pot. Stir to combine and reduce heat to medium low. Cover the pot and let the sauce simmer for at least 30 minutes. Add more water as needed if the sauce becomes too dry. Stir every 5 minutes or so.
Now taste the sauce and adjust the seasonings to your liking. Salt will definitely be needed. If the mixture tastes too acidic or sharp, add a pinch of sugar and some more garlic powder. If it tastes too sweet, consider adding more salt, pepper, and a dash of red wine or balsamic vinegar (just a *touch* - too much and you'll ruin it irrevocably). Remember, you can always continue to add seasonings, but you can't ever really take them away, so season gradually, stir often (sometimes the saltiest sauce is at the bottom of the pot), and taste often.
Once the sauce is ready, bring cold, heavily salted water to a boil in a large pot (see Steve's Cooking Techniques on boiling water). Add the pasta of your choice (traditional spaghetti is always a good route, but you can use penne, rigatoni, fusili, or fettucini too).
I like to serve this by spooning a big pile of sauce on top of the cooked noodles in a pasta bowl. I add a drizzle of olive oil and a grind of fresh pepper. You can also shave some fresh parmesan on top. Another variation is to add a bit of cream to the sauce near the end of cooking to make it a little richer.
And, of course, eat with lots of red wine in a big glass!