Pasta with Bolognese Sauce
Another gem from Cook's Illustrated! This recipe gave me a good excuse to explore Luca's Italian grocery in the Mission.
1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
1/2 cup water
1 1/4 cups sweet white wine (a Reisling or a Gewurztraminer)
1/2 small carrot, chopped into 1/4" pieces
1/2 small onion, chopped into rough 1/4" pieces
3 ounces pancetta, cut into 1" pieces
1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small garlic clove, minced or pressed through a garlic press
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/4 pounds meatloaf mix, or equal parts 80% lean ground beef, ground pork and ground veal
1 1/2 cups whole milk
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 pound pasta
freshly grated Parmesan cheese for serving
Rinse the dried porcini mushrooms in a small strainer under running water; drain. Add the mushrooms and water in a small microwave-safe bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, cut several steam vents and microwave on high power for 30 seconds. Let stand 5 minutes, until the mushrooms soften. Lift mushrooms from the liquid with a fork and mince. Pour the liquid through a paper towel over a measuring cup; reserve mushrooms and soaking liquid separately.
Bring the wine to a simmer in an 8" skillet over medium heat; reduce heat to low and simmer until reduced to 2 tablespoons, about 20 minutes. Set aside.
Meanwhile, pulse the softened porcini in a food processor until well ground. Add the carrots and process until the carrots are minced. Add the onion; pulse until the vegetables are broken down into 1/8" pieces, about ten 1-second pulses. Transfer the vegetables to the bowl.
Process the pancetta until it forms a paste, scraping down the bowl if necessary; transfer to a small bowl.
Pulse the tomatoes with their juice until chopped fine, six to eight 1-second pulses. Transfer to a bowl.
Heat the butter in a 12" skillet over medium high heat. When the foaming subsides, add the pancetta and cook, stirring frequently, until well browned, about 2 minutes. Add the carrots, onion and porcini; cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are softened but not browned, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and sugar; cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Add the ground meat, breaking the meat into 1-inch pieces, and cook for 1 minute.
Add the milk and stir to break the meat into 1/2" pieces; bring to a simmer, reduce the heat to medium, and continue to simmer, stirring to break up the meat into small pieces, until most of the liquid has evaporated and the meat starts to sizzle, 18 to 20 minutes.
Stir in the tomato paste and cook until combined, about 1 minute. Stir in the tomatoes, reserved porcini soaking liquid, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and the pepper; bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to medium and simmer until the liquid is reduced and the sauce is thickened but still moist, 12 to 15 minutes.
Stir in the reduced wine and simmer to blend the flavors, about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring 4 quarts of water to a rolling boil in a large pot. Add 1 tablespoon salt and the pasta; stir to separate noodles. Cook until al dente. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup pasta cooking liquid. Return pasta to the pot and add 2 cups sauce. Toss well, adding some pasta cooking liquid, if necessary, to help distribute the sauce. Divide the pasta among individual bowls and top each portion with 1/4 cup sauce. Serve immediately and pass the Parmesan to top.
Traditionally one uses spaghetti or linguine, but I like the corkscrew pasta, cause it traps the sauce in its corkscrews.