When I am at a loss for what to cook for dinner, I always turn to Italy for inspiration!! I absolutely love Mario Batali and all that he stands for. One of my favorite go-to cookbooks is The Mario Batali Babbo Cookbook. I have so many recipes flagged that I get excited just looking at it. My husband and I couldn't decide on a restaurant we were dying to go to, so I said I would bring the restaurant to us!! I chose Pappardelle bolognese; a beautiful and simple mixed green salad made with a fresh lemon dressing; and some good crusty rolls. Voila - dinner that we would find and the finest restaurants in Fort Collins.
Steps to a romantic dinner for 2!
Step One - fresh tomato paste using garden fresh tomatoes:
4 fresh tomatoes
1/2 cup water
1 T virgin olive oil
Start with fresh tomatoes to make your own tomato paste. Super simple to do. First, slice an x in the bottom of the tomato and take the stem out. Place 4 tomatoes in about 1 inch of boiling water, cover with a lid, reduce the heat, and steam for about 7 minutes. Take the lid off and peel the tomatoes using a knife - they should just slide right off. Now, mash the tomatoes and continue cooking on a simmer for about 35 minutes. Add a pinch of salt; 1 tablespoon of virgin olive oil, and a couple grinds of fresh pepper. This might seem like a tedious task to accomplish, but once you get the hang of it, you will do it all the time. Believe me, you will notice a huge difference in taste!
Step Two - Making the bolognese sauce:
You can use Mario's recipe exactly https://www.epicurious.com/recipes/member/views/mario-batalis-ragu-bolognese-1243581 , or, substitute ingredients on hand like I did.
Modified Recipe (Yield: 6-8 servings)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 celery stalks, finely chopped
4 carrots (multi colored) finely chopped
1/2 cup crimini mushrooms sliced thin
5 garlic cloves sliced
1 pound spicy italian ground pork
1/2 pound grass fed ground beef
4 ounces of slab bacon (or pancetta)
1 cup homemade tomato paste (or sub 1 can tomato paste)
1 cup milk
1 cup dry white wine
sea salt; pepper to taste
Italian flat leaf parsley chopped for garnish
Freshly grated parmigianno-reggianno (for serving)
1. In an 8 quart, heavy bottomed saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the veggies and sweat until they are translucent but not browned. This will take about 5 minutes.
2. Add the meats and cook into the vegetables. Brown over high heat, stirring to deep from burning.
3. Add the milk; tomato paste; and wine. Bring to a boil, then turn down to low to simmer. Allow to simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Salt and pepper to taste.
4. Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil and add 2 1/2 tablespoons of salt. Cook the pasta following the directions on the package.
5. Drain the pasta and divide evenly among the two plates. (this recipe is for 6-8 servings, so remember the portion size- you will be so happy there are left-overs) :)
6. Top the pasta with the ragu; grate some fresh parmigianno-reggianno; sprinkle some parsley; and grind a bit of fresh pepper.