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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Fuzzy

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My second child, a boy, turned eight in April and decided that he wanted to grow his hair long, except his is really curly and growing it is going to be more complicated than he realizes. I should know because I too have really curly hair.

This is a very sensitive topic for me. Throughout the entire fourth grade, my “friends” called me Fuzzy. They thought my hair was HILARIOUS, and in all honesty, it was. Bullying isn’t right, but my hair was wrong. My mother would struggle to get a comb through my frizzy curls, telling anyone who would listen that my hair didn’t grow DOWN, but OUT. I’m a grown woman now and with the help of a talented stylist, hours of research on the Internet, and a late-night infomercial genius by the name of Chaz Dean, my hair looks much better now. Unless of course it rains.

I wish I could take everything I have learned in this area and teach it to my children who have inherited my frizz, but I can’t. As you may have figured out by now, my kids will not be told what to do. My son proudly walks around like Albert Einstein had a scuffle with Don King in the middle of an electrical storm, and my daughter will not let me flat iron her hair while we talk and bond about One Direction and their upcoming album (OMG, I can’t wait! Niall said it was going to be more edgy this time around). She just doesn’t have the patience, but she has no idea how GORGEOUS her hair could be.

This morning, after I begged him to do SOMETHING with his hair, my son indulged me by spraying his hair with a little water and running the palm of his hand down one side of his head. The other side was left completely untouched. He desperately needed more spritzing, some finger combing and a spray gel, but he wouldn’t let me near him. I felt so helpless. Why can’t my kid put his trust in me? I wanted to write his teacher a note apologizing for the distraction his wild hair would cause in the classroom today, but I didn’t have time because my daughter was having her own crisis trying to use this stupid donut thing while her buddies were ringing the doorbell. If only she would let me do what I want, WHAT I KNOW, she wouldn’t need the damn donut!

It’s hard, because on the one hand, despite everything I have written on this blog to the contrary, they are perfect just the way they are and I don’t want to give them something silly to worry about. On the other hand (the one that keeps it real), good personal hygiene is important, which means that teeth need to be brushed, clothes need to be clean, and uncontrollable hair must be controlled. It’s a fact that neat and clean wins the race, and it’s a lesson best learned early. Plus I really don’t want anyone to call them Fuzzy. It totally sucked.