Asparagus Pesto

The emergence of spring vegetables at farmers’ markets – fava beans, peas, and most of all, asparagus – brings to me a renewed inspiration for cooking which is much appreciated after the relative monotony of winter fare. As the first asparagus made its way home recently, I was reminded of a dinner a good friend hosted for me and my girls last year around this time. He treated us to an asparagus pesto pasta, developed by Mark Bittman of the New York Times, who happens to be one of my favorite chefs/food activists. At least I saw it as a treat – the kids, definitely not (I recall being grateful, though a bit embarrassed to be asking for, plain noodles).

It is totally delicious, takes less than a half-hour from start to finish, goes great with a glass of crisp white wine and makes for wonderful leftovers. Sadly, it remains unappreciated by the younger set in our household but hopefully we’ll have better luck next time.

Preparation

Time: 20 minutes

Yield: 4 to 6 servings (about 1 1/2 cups).

Salt

1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2-inch segments

1 clove garlic, or more to taste

1/4 cup pine nuts

1/4 cup olive oil, or more as desired

3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Freshly ground black pepper

Juice of 1/2 lemon, or to taste.

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it. Add the asparagus and cook until fully tender but not mushy, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain well, reserving some of the cooking liquid, and let the asparagus cool slightly. (If you have a slotted spoon, use that to take out the asparagus and reserve the cooking water for making the pasta)

2. Transfer the asparagus to a food processor and add the garlic, pine nuts, 2 tablespoons of the oil, Parmesan, a pinch of salt and a couple of tablespoons of the cooking liquid. Process the mixture, stopping to scrape down the sides of the container if necessary, and gradually add the remaining oil and a bit more of the reserved cooking liquid to moisten if necessary. Add the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper to taste, pulse one last time, and serve over pasta, fish or chicken (or cover and refrigerate for up to a day).


Make-Your-Own Chicken Tacos

One of our favorite go-to weeknight dinners is chicken tacos. This is easily a 60 minute or less meal, including time to marinate the chicken breasts. I like to keep 4-6 chicken breasts frozen and on hand at all times. You can either leave them out in the morning to gently defrost throughout the day or soak them in hot water just before use. Fresh is great too, of course, but running to the store last-minute is not often an alternative for me. The rest of the core ingredients tend to be in the pantry in our house almost all the time – limes, onions, corn tortillas, avocados and a few basic spices. During the summer months when bell peppers are in season, these can easily be turned into fajitas too.

Preparation

Serves 4 + a bit of leftovers

30 minutes prep time (including marinade), 45 minutes total cooking time

Whisk the juice of 1-2 limes, ¼ cup of olive oil, 2 cloves of finely chopped garlic, ½ teaspoon paprika, ½ teaspoon ground cumin, ½ teaspoon kosher salt, and a pinch of cayenne (or more, to taste) until combined. Butterfly (cut horizontally across breast to make one thick breast into two thinner pieces) two chicken breasts (about 1 pound of meat), place in a non-reactive pan (glass Pyrex works great here) and drizzle with marinade. Sprinkle chicken with freshly-ground pepper and dried oregano on both sides. Move chicken around in the marinade to ensure both sides are properly covered and refrigerate for about 30 minutes. If you have less time, that is OK too.

Grill chicken on the stove top in a grill pan or cast iron pan, or outdoors if possible. These thinner pieces should cook in about 5-7 minutes per side. Let the chicken rest on a cutting board for 2-3 minutes once it is cooked to seal in the juices, then slice thinly.

Warm tortillas in the oven or on the stove top.

Mash 1-2 avocados with a bit of lime juice and a pinch of salt and pepper for a quick guacamole.

If desired, sautéed one onion, chopped lengthwise, with about a teaspoon of cumin seeds in good olive oil. Do the same with bell peppers if in season (I prefer to cook the onions and peppers separately since one takes longer that the others). Quick hint: toast cumin seeds in olive oil first before adding the vegetables. This simple saute is a create opportunity to recruit kiddo assistance!

I like to serve all of the components separately and have the kids (and adults) make their own tacos to taste.

Adult version, with hot sauce

Ava's "kid's" version, with extra onions

Tis the Season: Matzo Ball Soup


Matzo ball soup is ALWAYS, without question, a huge hit in our family. Ava happened to eat three bowls worth as a first course at our Seder this week – a certain record for one whose eating habits typically resemble a small bird. Why I don’t make this more often, why save such a simple and delicious meal for Passover? I have no answer but I committing myself to make more of an effort to integrate it into the soup rotation over the next few months. After all, during a cold San Francisco summer, who wouldn’t appreciate chicken soup?

I’ll be the first to admit that there are endless variations to the basic matzo ball technique – and now that the store mixes have eliminated MSG from the ingredient list, they seem like a good option. But I happen to be partial to the version published about 5 years ago. Leave it to Martha Stewart to solve the fluffy matzo ball dilemma! Her secret? You may be able to spot it in these photos: separating egg whites and yolks, then whipping egg white and folding them gently into the mix.

I also used this as an opportunity to make a huge pot of chicken stock to freeze in batches – this time, working with raw wings, thighs and legs rather than starting with a roasted carcass. This creates a lighter broth which compliments the heft of the matzoh balls, but any stock will work, even vegetable.

Preparation

Adapted from Martha Stewart Living circa mid-2000’s

Serves 10

  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • ¼ cup chicken fat, melted (or substitute vegetable oil)
  • 12 ½ cups chicken stock
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons coarse salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup matzoh meal
  • ¼ cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • coarsely chopped fresh dill for garnish (I added chives as well)

Whisk yolks, fat, 1/2 cup stock and salt in a medium bowl. Season with pepper. Stir in matzo meal and parsley.

Transformation of a humble ingredient

Beat egg whites in a mixer on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form. Add matzo mixture, whisk until smooth. Refrigerate until slightly thickened, about 30 minutes.


Bring remaining stock to a boil in a large pot. Form 1 1/2 inch balls with wet hands and add to stock. Reduce heat. Cover and simmer matzo balls until they are slightly firm and cooked through, about 15 minutes. Garnish soup with dill.



Vegetable and Whole Grain Salad with Preserved Lemons

My cousin introduced me to preserved lemons over bagels and lox earlier this year, and I came home from that visit totally hooked. I immediately picked a few up at the store, but my enthusiasm waned when I realized I wasn’t quite sure what to do with them. Luckily, my brilliant husband  suggested tossing them into a wonderful grain salad that we make as a vehicle to use up miscellaneous vegetables we have on hand. A citrus and olive oil dressing is all it needs – with a little harissa (Moroccan chili paste) to spike it if you love a spicier flavor like we do. I will say that I had no expectations of the girls enjoying this, and they didn’t even try it the first five times it appeared on the table. But the last time, without any prompting, curiosity got the best of them. They both tried a quinoa version, with favorable, if not exactly glowing, reviews.

Preparation

Preserved lemons can be found at most specialty stores and Middle Eastern markets. But they are also very easy to make at home (which is what I decided to do after using up the store-bought ones). They take about a month to cure in a dark pantry, then last for a long time in the fridge. David Lebovitz’s recipe is a good reference:

http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2006/12/moroccan-preser-1/

Before

After!

Salad (serve 4-6 as a side dish)

Combine 2-3 cups or more of cooked quinoa (I love to combine the red and white varieties), farro, brown rice or another whole grain of choice with a mix of raw or gently cooked vegetables. In version pictured above, we lightly sautéed radicchio (any chicory adds wonderful flavor contrast). Red cabbage and carrots works great. As would arugula, small broccoli pieces, sautéed zucchini in summertime, etc. Chop the rind of preserved lemon into small pieces and add to salad. If you have fresh herbs on hand, throw those in too. Cilantro, parsley, mint and tarragon would all be good options. Toss with a light citrus dressing, salt and pepper and serve. This works great for a meal anytime of the year, and for picnics too, which are on my mind as we slowly inch our way toward warmer weather.

Pizza at Home

I used to think I hated pizza. The thin limp/lifeless/Domino’s versions I typically encountered in my teen and childhood years really were awful. Then I was introduced to deep dish via Zachary’s in Berkeley and everything shifted. Fast forward fifteen years and a full explosion of fabulous Neopolitan-style, crispy thin crust creations all over San Francisco. Guess what? I love pizza! So as typical when I love a food, I eventually embark on the process of learning how to recreate it home. I tried various recipes; I took a class; I lowered my expectations. And voila – I learned that pizza at home is actually a simple 30-minute meal, provided you make the dough in advance.

Before we proceed to instructions, I wanted to share a few things I’ve come to terms with in order to make the most successful and enjoyable pizza at home:

1) A home oven – even the “prosumer”  variety – can never match the high temperatures of wood-burning ovens so unless you have a real pizza oven at your disposal, crust expectations have to be adjusted. But the pizza will still be delicious.

2) Flour matters.  To some extent. I’ve played with a variety of flours at this point – the superfine “00” flour favored by pizzerias, soft whole wheat, bread flour, etc. The combo below is what I’ve finally settled on but I’m not averse to using what’s on hand in a pinch, and encourage you to experiment as well.

3) Because the pizza will bake at a lower temperature in  your home oven, it is far easier to use fresh mozzarella that is not packed in water or if using fresh that is packed in water, you need to drain it thoroughly to avoid a liquidity pool in the middle of an otherwise lovely pizza. Any dry cheese – Gruyere, soft goat,  provolone, etc, will work great.

4) When in doubt or low on time, store-bought dough  is a good option (Trader Joe’s dough comes to mind). That said, I usually struggle to roll the store-made dough – no matter how much I warm it up or how much flour I add, the damn thing bounces back upon stretching. Which is why I ended up learning to make my own dough in the first place – it’s a breeze to roll out.

Pizza Dough

Inspired by The Mediterranean Diet Cookbook

Active time: 10-15 minutes

Total time: 2 hours

Yields dough for 2 8-10″ pizzas and freezes beautifully if you don’t use both

1. PROOF 3/4 teaspoon active dry yeast in 1 cup of very warm water: 100-110° water to yeast along with a teaspoon of sugar. Stir gently several times and allow yeast to develop for five minutes. If you see foaming or bubbling at the top, your yeast is alive and ready to use. If you see no activity after 10 minutes, this yeast is no longer viable.

2. ADD 3 cups of flour to a mixing bowl: my favorite combo is 1 c. all-purpose, 1 c. whole wheat flour + 1 c. cake or pastry flour. Use a soft wheat flour here, it will work best. Add 2 tsp. of kosher salt (about 1 tsp. with other salts). Make a well in the center of the flour and pour in yeast mixture.

3. Gradually MIX flour and liquid together, stirring with a wooden spoon at first, then with your hands.

4. When the mixture is ragged and pulls cleanly away from the bowl, turn in out on a lightly floured board to knead OR leave in bowl if using a  stand mixer.

5. KNEAD dough for about 6-8 minutes by hand or 2-3 minutes using a dough hook in a stand mixer on a low setting. The dough is ready when it is light and elastic, like a baby’s bottom, apparently.

6. Coat another mixing bowl with a light layer of olive oil. Set dough in the oiled bowl. Turn it to coat with oil, cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a 60-70° room to RISE for 1.5-2 hours.

7. Once the dough has doubled in volume, turn it back onto the floured board, punch it down and knead briefly just to knock out air holes.

Pizza

Active time: 5-10 minutes

Cooking time: 5-8 minutes

1. If using a pizza stone, set it in a cold oven and PREHEAT oven to 550° for at least 30 minutes. If you have a convection setting, turn that on too. Anything that brings up the heat in the oven will result in a tastier pizza. Otherwise, just preheat oven to 550°.

2. DIVIDE the dough you just made into two even balls using a knife or pastry cutter.

3. Pat ball of dough into a thick circle then ROLL using a rolling-pin to about 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick.

4. Generously SPRINKLE the pizza peel with coarse flour or cornmeal to ensure that pizza slides easily onto the pizza stone. Transfer dough onto the peel or if not using a peel, onto a lightly oiled baking sheet.

5. Finally, the fun part! TOP with various toppings and slide into the oven.I like to also “paint” the pizza edge with olive oil and sprinkle gently with salt.

6. BAKE for 5-7 minutes, until the crust is blistered brown and the toppings bubbling.

7. DRIZZLE the top with olive oil once it comes out of the oven and serve.

I tend to make one simple “cheese” pizza Margherita and a more complex one with greens if I’m making two. It used to be that the kids would squarely stick with the Margherita. But last time, both tried and approved of the “adult” option much to my delight. My favorite pizza combos include:

  • mozzarella, basil, oregano
  • mixture of grated cheeses (Asiago, provolone, mozzarella, etc).with mushrooms and a good salami
  • any pizza topped with slices of capocollo cured meat
  • greens sautéed with garlic and topped with either fresh goat cheese or shredded Gruyere. Not only is this a great way to use up leftover veggies, it is simply delicious.
  • Any of the above with capers, olives or artichoke hearts

What are your pizza favorites?

Another option: Mushroom Bolognese

I just spotted this Mushroom Bolognese recipe on Chowhound and was  inspired to share. I’m a huge mushroom lover, and though I haven’t tried making this yet, I can see how they can hold their own in terms of flavor and texture compared to the meaty traditional bolognese I posted earlier.

Give it a try  and let me know how it turns out. And I promise to do the same.

Bhavna and Patrick, this one’s for you!

Preparation

Courtesy of Chow.com and Yasmin Le Sauce

Total: 60 minutes

Active: 25 minutes

Makes: 6-8 servings

  • 1 medium white onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 celery ribs, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 3 tbs extra virgin olive oil, separated
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 lb crimini mushrooms, trimmed
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 dried red chili, crushed
  • 1 tsp dried marjoram
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tbs tomato paste
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 c madeira wine
  • 1/2 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 1L (about 4 c) tomato puree
  • Parmesan cheese for garnish (optional)
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. In a food processor, pulse the onion, carrot and celery together into small pieces.
  2. Add 2 tbs of oil to a large pot and heat over medium-high heat. Transfer onion, carrot and celery mixture to the pot. Add 1/4 tsp of salt, stir and sauté for about 5 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, add 1/3 of the mushrooms to the food processor and pulse coarsely. Add another 1/3 of the mushrooms to the chopped mushrooms and pulse again. Add the last 1/3 and pulse until roughly chopped. The first batch will be almost pureed and the last should be mostly large pieces.
  4. Transfer the mushrooms to the pot and add 1/2 tsp of salt and 1/4 tsp of pepper. Stir and sauté for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until the liquid from the mushrooms evaporates.
  5. Add the remaining tbs of oil, the garlic, chili, marjoram and thyme, and stir. Cook for 3 minutes.
  6. Add the tomato paste and sugar, stir and cook for 2 more minutes.
  7. Add the madeira wine and red wine vinegar and stir. Cook for one minute to allow some of the alcohol in the wine to cook off.
  8. Add the pureed tomatoes and the remaining 1/2 tsp of salt, stir and bring to a boil. Reduce heat slightly and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, for 15-20 minutes.
  9. To serve, ladle some sauce over cooked linguine or parpadelle and mix to coat the noodles well. Serve pasta onto individual plates and add a little sauce to the top of each. Drizzle with olive oil and/or shaved parmesan, if desired.

Homemade Burgers with Sweet Potato Fries

Who knew that burgers and fries are almost as easy to make at home as they are to eat out? This simple and delicious dinner only made it into our repertoire last year, when Ava suddenly decided she was cool with meat prepared this way. Once I realized that you can pull this together in 30 minutes flat, I would regularly stock the freezer with grassfed ground beef from the farmers’ market, which comes conveniently Cryo-Vac’d in 1 pound packages. Pull the meat out in the morning and its perfectly defrosted by dinner time. Pair the burger with baked sweet potato fries, regular potatoes, a vegetable, a salad, etc. I rarely bother to make real french fries but have tried on occasion (though the 30 minute meal factor gets thrown out the window anytime deep frying is involved).

We are still struggling with finding the right bun because no matter what we’ve tried so far, whether its sliced ciabatta, baguette, smaller whole grain buns, etc.,. the kids leave half uneaten (yet insist on the complete burger of course). Our local burger joint has these perfectly spongy versions that I wish were available for purchase. I suppose I could try making my own but that is beyond the scope of my life at this very moment!

Preparation

Serves 4

  • 1 – 1 1/2 lbs grassfed ground beef
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 buns
  • 2 large sweet potatoes
  • Good olive oil
  • chopped parsley for garnish

Burger

Heat an outdoor or indoor grill on high. Salt and pepper the ground beef generously with kosher salt, gently mixing it. Careful not to overwork the meat when mixing or shaping the burger – according to many sources, this is the key to tasty burgers. Gently shape the ground beef into appropriately sized patties and make a thumbprint in the middle.

This allows the burgers to end up flat after cooking as opposed to rounded, since they plump when they cook.  Cook on high heat for about 3-4 minutes per side for medium (adjust depending on preference). Sprinkle cooked burgers with salt and pepper to finish. Toast buns on the warm grill and serve.

Sweet Potatoes

Preheat oven to 400°. Slice the sweet potatoes in half cross-wise, then create about 1/4 inch think lengthwise slices. Finally, cut sticks out of the slices. Place on parchment or Silpat-lined baking pan, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper and bake for about 20 minutes. Sprinkle with finely chopped parsley as garnish, if desired.

Favorite Lentil Soup

Lentils are an established “superfood” and lucky for us, a general favorite in our household for soups, daal (and salads for the adult crew). I started making this lentil soup, adapted from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, when Ava was a toddler. I remember pureeing batches for Talia when she started eating solid foods, and she couldn’t get enough. It was the perfect way to include her into our family dinners without making separate “baby food.” Yes, that kid has an awesome palette and appetite but she’s turned into quite a carnivore as she’s getting older (loves nothing more than salami and cheese for breakfast, perhaps with a small cracker to appease Mom and Dad who are constantly striving for balance). So its exciting for me that she’ll still eat this simple, vegetarian soup with gusto.

 

Preparation

Serves 4-6 + leftovers

  • Olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 large garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/3 cup finely diced celery
  • 1/3 cup finely diced carrot
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 1 1/2 cup French, brown, or beluga lentils (I prefer a mix)
  • 2-3 handfuls of chopped greens (spinach, kale, chard, etc.)
  • 1 cup of cooked penne or fusilli (optional) or 2 cups of smaller pasta (shells, orecchiette or other)

 

 

Heat olive oil in a soup pot, add onion and saute until it softens, about 5 minutes. In the meantime, pound garlic in a mortar with 1 tsp of salt until it become a paste. Add tomato paste to the onions and work until they come together.

Add garlic paste, celery, carrots, bay leaves, and parsley, then cook for about 3 minutes.

 

 

Add the lentils, 2 quarts of water, 1 additional teaspoon of salt and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium-low and simmer partially covered until the lentils are tender. This takes 30-40 minutes. Toward the end of cooking, add the greens and let them wilt in the soup – spinach should take just a minute or two, chard and kale about 10, to soften. Toss in the pasta if using.

Serve with grated Parmesan cheese – or mix in a couple teaspoons of soft chevre as Ava loves to do. It melts into the soup and adds a lovely dimension of flavor.Crusty bread and gruyere are also a favorite addition.

SLOW COOKER PREPARATION: Follow instructions above for sauteing the vegetables, etc. Once they are cooked in a regular pan on the stove, transfer to the slow cooker, add lentils and 7 cups of water. Cook on high setting for 3-3.5 hours.

NOTE: This soup freezes nicely and tastes better a few hours after it is cooked.

 

Chicken Soup

One of the rewards of roasting a simple, delicious chicken at home (see this post), besides the great leftover options, is that you can use the carcass to make a quart or two of wonderful broth that will elevate any future soup and stew you make. I can usually squirrel away some broth into the freezer but inevitably (and much to my delight, being the Jewish mom that I am) one of my girls will ask for a dinner of chicken soup as soon as they see it. Lately, we end up doing roast chicken one night, leftover chicken for lunch and possibly dinner the next day, and chicken soup another night the same week. Sounds like poultry overload as I write but it somehow works.

Broth Preparation

  • 1 roast chicken carcass, all meat and skin removed (reserve meat for leftover/soup, toss the skin)
  • 2-3 stalks of celery, cut in large chunks
  • 3 carrots, cut in large chunks
  • 1-2 leeks if desired
  • 1-2 bay leaves
  • a small handful of peppercorns
  • 1-2 tbsp sea salt or kosher salt
  • 5-7 parsley sprigs

Combine the above in a large stockpot and cover with cold water. The chicken should be completely covered by 1-2 inches of water ideally. Bring to a boil then simmer for 1-2 hours, depending on preference. The longer you simmer, the richer the broth. I prefer my broth simple, but feel free to add other herbs and spices as you desire. Refrigerate overnight or for at least 8 hours, which allows the fat to collect at the top. Strain cold broth through a fine mesh strainer into either a new pot if you are making chicken soup right away or into storage containers. Refrigerate or freeze as desired.

Chicken Soup – Serves 4

  • leftover roasted chicken OR 2 grilled chicken breasts (about 1 pound) or equivalent boneless, skinless thighs
  • 2 quarts chicken broth/more or less depending on preference and need
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 celery stock, finely chopped
  • noodles or rice
  • finely chopped parsley if on hand
  • avocado, cilantro, finely chopped onion if desired

I like to grill boneless cuts of chicken quickly on the stovetop to serve as the base for my chicken soup, though you could also poach the chicken, or stew it. Once the chicken is cooked, add the chopped carrots and celery to the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Add your choice of rice or noodles (if using brown rice, cook it separately and add toward the end of preparation, once carrots and celery are desired softness) and simmer for about 20 minutes. Add chicken, cook for another 5 minutes, garnish with chopped parsley and serve. You can’t go wrong with this simple treat but I especially love the Mexican version with chopped avocado, onion, cilantro and rice.

Serve with a good crusty bread for a simple weeknight dinner.

Pasta with Ragú Bolognese

Now that our most welcome February spring has yielded to a round of huge rainstorms, its time to start cooking comfort food again. And no comfort food is more welcome in our home than pasta with ragú Bolognese (also known as noodles with meat sauce for the younger set).  What separates this dish from a more typical (and admittedly quicker) meat sauce is time. It takes at least 1.5 – 2 hours to prepare, due to the slow cooking process which yields an incredibly delicious result. This is not the dish to start at 5PM on a weeknight. However, make a large batch on a weekend and you’ll never regret it. The ragú freezes beautifully, lending itself to easy weeknight cooking when all you have to do is defrost, make some pasta and veggies and indulge. Because the sauce is so versatile, you could also make lasagna with it, serve over polenta and vegetables, or other grains.

Before I delve into specifics, I will admit that there are hundreds, even thousands of variations and approaches to this classic Italian sauce. Feel free to search for more options or amalgamate a few, as I do here. You’ll likely find that the basic ingredients and techniques are similar but the nuances do vary.

One additional note: Though I could not find a written recipe for this Wine Spectator video of Mario Batali making Bolognese sauce, it is really helpful in terms of technique. He breaks down the basics beautifully.

Preparation

Inspired by recipes from the Chez Panisse Café Cookbook, and Mario Batali via the Food Network

Serve 8-10

  • ½-1 cup sliced mushrooms, as available and if preferred OR 1/3 c. dried mushrooms*
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced fine
  • 2-4 ounces of diced pancetta
  • 3-4 ribs celery, diced fine
  • 2-3 carrot, diced fine
  • 1 pound ground beef or pork
  • 1 pound ground lamb or veal
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • 4 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1- 1½ cups milk
  • 1 cup white wine
  • kosher salt, black pepper
  • Parmigiano-Reggianno cheese and chopped parsley for grating

If you are using dried mushrooms, soak them in boiling water for 15-20 minutes until soft, drain and reserve the liquid. Chop either soaked or fresh mushrooms finely and set aside.

Using a wide, heavy-bottomed pot (this would be a good time to bust out that Le Creuset pot if you have one. We just invested in a large one and I’m in love!), heat a few tablespoons of olive oil and add the diced pancetta. After it releases some fat, add the onion, celery, carrot, garlic and a little salty. Cook until the vegetables are translucent and soft but be sure not to brown them – about 10-15 minutes.


Add the ground meat to the vegetables, season with salt, then cook on a medium to medium-low heat to render the fat and slowly brown the meat. This will take about 45 minutes, with frequent stirring. Move around the sticky bits from the bottom of the pan, then add tomato paste, stir it together with the meat and cook, stirring often, for about 30 minutes. At this stage, the meat and tomato paste will have combined completely in a caramelized mix.

Add the milk and cook until it evaporates completely and leaves the meat silky smooth, about 5 minutes. Then add the wine and reduce on a medium heat until the alcohol is cooked off (you’’ll know when that happens by the smell). After the alcohol has cooked off, add the mushrooms, bay leaves and thyme, and cover the pan. Simmer on medium-low heat for about an hour, then season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve over pasta of your choice and enjoy!