When I was a kid and not under my parents’ supervision, my godfather, Don, used to let me watch mafia movies. I know, I know—it’s a strange coincidence that I used to watch mafia movies with my “godfather” whose actual name is Don. But sometimes in life things really do work out like that. Promise. And to this day I really LOVE mafia movies. They were the ones who taught me the importance of a good sauce.
In every movie, there is a scene where they cook a feast. Food is really important to Italians—it’s no joke. In “The Godfather,” Don Corleone is in the hospital and Clemenza cooks for the group who are all on edge (pasta is a comfort food after all). He pulls a frustrated Michael over to show him how to cook the Bolognese. Clemenza: “You start with a little oil and fry the garlic. Then you trow da tomatoes, da tomata paste…”. And then he cites a trick my own grandfather taught me, “…then you add sugar to give the sauce a little sweetness!”
And then there’s the scene in “Goodfellas” where Henry, Paulie and the rest of them spend all day preparing their feast while in jail. Paulie’s trick that always stuck with me was that he sliced the garlic with a razor. Only someone in jail has time for that business. To Italians, there are no “30 minute-meals” because food is supposed to be slow. They were, after all, the founders of the slow food movement. Meals aren’t a chore but rather an event.
Adrianna’s Bolognese Sauce
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
2 ribs celery, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
6 cremini or portabella mushrooms, sliced
3/4 cup of basil, chopped
3 tablespoons of parmesan cheese
1.5 lbs of ground beef
1 lb. of sausages
24 ounce can of diced tomatoes
12 ounce can of tomato puree
1 cup of dry red wine
1 tsp. of crushed red pepper
2 springs of rosemary & thyme, tied together
salt and freshly ground pepper
In a 6 to 8 quart heavy-bottomed pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat until hot. Add the onions, celery, carrots and garlic and cook until the vegetables are translucent, about 8-10 minutes. Then in a separate pan over medium heat, cook up the ground beef. Be sure to dash a bit of salt and pepper throughout the meat to ensure proper seasoning. Drain grease from pan and set beef aside. In that same pan, over medium heat, cook up sausages, turning every 2-3 minutes.
As the sausages are cooking, turn your attention to the vegetables. Put the diced garlic into the pot on top of the vegetables. Don’t stir! Garlic is best steamed on top, rather than browned. After about 2 minutes, throw the diced tomatoes, tomato puree and wine in the pot with the vegetables. Now throw in the ground beef and slice up the cooked sausages and throw those into the pot, too.
Grab your sprigs or rosemary and thyme and tie them together with string to make a herb bouquet–a little trick I learned from Barefoot Contessa. Place the bouquet in the pot and add salt, pepper and red crushed pepper. Cover the pot, leaving it a tad bit open on one side and cook for 3 hrs.
About 30 minutes before serving, check back and taste to make sure it’s properly seasoned. At this time add your cremini mushrooms, chopped basil and parmesan cheese. Thirty minutes later, voila!