My First Bolognese

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I am so honored to be part of the monthly link up party Our Growing Edge, which was created by Genie De Wit at Bunny Eats Design to connect bloggers and inspire us to try new things. This month the event is hosted by food blogger Francesca at Fearless Kitchen. Hope you enjoy!

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I have a friend named Josephine who is eight feet tall and weighs 100 pounds. She is beautiful. The first thing you notice about her is her hair. It is long and lush and reminds me of a warm, safe place where as a child I’d hide. It’s also super curly but never has any frizz. It’s the hair I’ve always wanted but can’t have no matter how many products, specialized cuts or styling techniques I try.

The second thing you notice about her is how nice and sweet she is, and how totally unfazed she is by motherhood. I wish I could be half as carefree with my children as she seems.

Josephine is also 100% Italian. She speaks fluent Italian and vacations in Italy every year. To compare, I am part Italian, can say “parmigiano reggiano” with a killer Italian accent, and really enjoyed our recent getaway to Myrtle Beach.

Josephine’s husband, Loreto, is also 100% Italian and serves on our town’s Little League board along with my husband, who does not have any Italian blood whatsoever. Loreto recently invited all of the board members to his home for a meeting and “traditional Sunday gravy” made by his wife.

My husband was pretty psyched when he got the email, but that was nothing once he started eating. He began texting me.

“OMG the Sunday gravy is amazing :)”

Now, I’d like to point out that over the course of our 13 year marriage, I can count the number of times I have served my husband jarred tomato sauce on one hand. Because I am part Italian, I know how important it is to make homemade sauce, and years ago I was lucky enough to secure the recipe of Grandma Marionni, my friend’s Italian grandmother-in-law, and have made it so many times I now have it memorized. I have used it over and over again in countless lasagnas, baked zitis, and chicken parms. My husband is not deprived of authentic Italian cooking at all, so I guess I was a little surprised he was so impressed by Josephine’s gravy. But, whatever, I was just glad I didn’t have to cook for him that night, and also — how nice was it of her to cook for the entire Little League board? And right after the holidays???

Moments later, my husband sent me another text:

“Meatballs.”

Oh brother. Years ago, in a move to make us healthier, I started making meatballs from ground turkey. They are awesome, but my husband doesn’t agree. In his world, meatballs should be made of meat. From this one word text, it was clear to me that Josephine’s meatballs weren’t made of turkey.

Here were his other texts, one after another:

“Montepulciano wine.”

“Fresh grated pecorino cheese.”

“The gravy is really thick.”

“Josephine made it.”

Good grief. Ok, that does it. Right then and there, I resolved to make my non-Italian husband a real Sunday gravy with real meatballs. I consulted my Sopranos Family Cookbook and learned that I would have to obtain a meaty pork neck bone and run a can of peeled tomatoes through a food mill. Forget it.

My second idea was to make an authentic bolognese. I have never made one before. I mean, sometimes I will quickly cook a pound of ground turkey and add it to Grandma Marionni’s sauce right before the pasta is done and pretend it’s bolognese, but I know it’s not. A true bolognese is something I’ve always wanted to make, but never had a reason. Until now.

I contacted Grandma Marionni’s granddaughter-in-law for advice and she told me that Lidia Bastianich’s recipe was the best and that I was to not, under any circumstances, make the one from Giada.

Lidia’s recipe, entitled “Sugo alla Bolognese,” has 13 ingredients and takes three hours, but at least I don’t have to see or touch a pig’s meaty neck bone. I was pumped, so I purchased my ingredients and got to work:

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Step One: Saute the vegetables in olive oil.

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Step Two: Add beef and pork.

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Step Three: Add wine.

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Step Four: Add tomatoes and bay leaves.

IMG_3762Step Five: Cook for three hours, adding water every now and then so that the meat is always covered.

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Step Six: Mangia!

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Step Seven: Receive just as many compliments from my husband as Josephine, including my favorite, “This is restaurant quality.” I personally felt it needed more salt (Lidia doesn’t give exact amounts of salt; she says to salt things “lightly,” but her idea of “lightly” and my idea of “lightly” are, I think, two different things). Nevertheless, my husband didn’t seem to mind. I think he just loves to eat. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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An Open Letter to the Beef Industry

I just got back from the grocery store and I can’t stay quiet any longer. Something has been bothering me beef-wise for a long time, and I bet I’m not the only one. I am talking about your labeling. It is written in a language I don’t understand. I’m not sure, but I think you might be using industry insider language on the outside.

Other industries have realized this is no way to attract and retain customers. For example, you don’t see Charmin trying to sell more toilet paper by continually telling people what part of the tree was cut and pressed before it reached them. That’s because Charmin knows the only thing their customers care about is feeling nice and clean down there. Why haven’t you figured this out yet?

For background, I have loved beef for as long as I can remember. I grew up eating hamburgers, my husband and I bonded over our mutual love for steak on our first date, and a hot open-faced pot roast sandwich for dinner on a crisp fall evening makes me so happy I could cry. I am a big fan of yours, and I am annoyed every bit as you are by vegetarians who go bananas over roasted brussel sprouts or pickled beets in a jar. I am on your side 110 percent, and I am here to help.

Today, I had an idea to make Asian Beef Stir Fry for dinner. This wasn’t too difficult for me to achieve, thanks to the words “Stir Fry” on your label, so kudos for that. But, in your world, what does “round” mean? Can you tell me?

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Beef Round Stir Fry

What is round about a cow? Do you cut the meat into a round shape, and then declare it perfect for stir fry? If that is true, then what kind of dish would use a triangular shape of beef? Is there a reason why the label can’t simply say, “Beef Strips for Stir Fry”?

Here is another one:

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Flank Steak

I know I have some recipes that call for flank steak, and I know they are delicious, but I have no idea what a flank is, and I’m pretty sure I don’t need to know. I just need to know that this particular cut is lean, juicy, and quick to cook. Other Moms may have committed this flank steak fact to memory, but I haven’t, and I don’t have any room in my purse for a Beef to English/English to Beef dictionary.

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Beef Boneless Skirt Steak

Was this cow wearing a skirt when it was slaughtered? Honestly, whatever the cow does in his private life is none of my business. The only thing I care about is how he should be prepared. Oven? Crock-pot? Grilled over an open flame? Just cut to the chase. Stop being so coy.

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Semi Boneless Rib Eye

These do not look like ribs, and I don’t see any eyes. I am familiar with the phrase “Rib Eye,” but it doesn’t connect me to your product in any meaningful way. It doesn’t convey anything about how good the beef will taste or how much I will enjoy it, and honestly, that should be your goal. The experience of the end-user should be your priority. This is like, Marketing 101. Instead, I think the label above should read, “A rich steak that is full of fat and flavor.”

Finally, this is my favorite:

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Boneless Chuck Roast

This cow must have been a total egomaniac to insist his name be printed on the label. Who cares what your name is (was), Chuck? Now I am going to eat you! Pass the potatoes!