If a man cannot or will not cook, he is not a man. All REAL men – manly men, if you will – know how to cook, and by cook I don’t mean scurry around a studio kitchen yelling “BAM!” and cooking stuff most ordinary chefs don’t cook, like that wretched little Emeril does on his stupid Food Network show. Honestly…what kind of serious chef has his own studio band, complete with an African-American Doc Severinsen? I learned to cook because my mother – God rest her soul – was a superb cook. When I moved out and lived on my own, I had no choice but to teach myself the arcane ways of the kitchen. And now I happily pass what I have learned along to you, gentle reader.
True Italian meat sauce is much more than ground chuck and plain tomato sauce: it’s a carefully layered arrangement of flavors and textures in which three kinds of meat are the key players surrounded by a strong supporting cast in a production the Italians call Bolognese.
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 cup finely chopped celery
1 cup finely chopped carrots
1 cup finely chopped onion
8 garlic cloves, thickly sliced
1 large bay leaf
4 ounces finely diced prosciutto
½ pound ground veal
½ pound ground pork
½ pound ground beef
1 cup red wine
2 cups Mama Marie’s Tomato Sauce
4 tablespoons plain tomato paste
1-1/2 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage
4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
1 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste
Crumble up the ground meat and mix together loosely.
Heat a large saucepan on high until scorching hot (for best results, use a large, deep cast iron pan and leave it over high flame for at least 5 minutes). Add the meat a handful at a time but do not crowd the pan. Stir continuously on high heat to ensure the meat browns. Remove quickly and put aside. Allow pan to become very hot again before browning any additional meat.
When meat has all been browned and removed from pan, add olive oil, followed by the red pepper flakes, celery, carrots, onion, garlic, bay leaf and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook ten minutes more, stirring occasionally.
Raise the heat to high and deglaze the pan with the red wine, being sure to scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen up any caramelized meat or vegetables, as these will add flavor. Next, add the prosciutto and ground meat. Cook, stirring constantly, for two minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and let it cook until almost evaporated, about five minutes. Raise the heat to high, add the tomato sauce, tomato paste and stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Remove cover during last half hour of cooking to allow sauce to thicken. When done, remove from burner and add heavy cream, sage and basil. Stir in thoroughly. Adjust for salt and pepper to taste.
Serve over rigatoni al dente with plenty of grated cheese on the side.