“We’re gettin’ reaaaaal Italian tonight!”

This week our Green Media class was assigned to borrow a cookbook from Gleeson Library and then to find a recipe in that book and cook it. After an hour of trying to decide what book to commit to, I chose Pasta International by Gertrude Harris. I decided on this book because 1. I love pasta, 2. I wanted a book that wasn’t published in the last 10 years, & 3. It’s autographed by Gertrude herself w/a little note saying “For dear Clemmie with love, pasta and tomorrow’s joy — Gertrude” (I love books that show a little history). Initially I didn’t know exactly what I was going to cook, but I love all kinds of pasta, so I knew I’d find something that I’d like.

So today my coworker Bri and I planned on going shopping and we ended up pretty close to a Trader Joe’s or what I like to call, TJ’s. Luckily I brought my cookbook with me just incase I got the chance to go to a grocery store before I went back home. When I got to TJ’s it was so crowded. Like overwhelmingly crowded. It was also a TJ’s that I have never been to so I didn’t know where everything was and I started to panic. When I say panic, I don’t mean mental breakdown panic, I mean I didn’t know what I was going to cook for my assignment therefore I didn’t know what ingredients I needed. The result of this panic was that I just picked a random recipe while standing in the middle of the very crowded TJ’s, which ended up being Bolognese Meat Sauce Ragù (Northern Italy). After about an hour I got everything I needed and more because TJ’s is literally the best thing with all the best things.

Bri waiting with all of our groceries in one of many long lines at Trader Joe's.

Earlier in the week, I told Carly (cinnamon roll buddy) that I had another cooking project to do and she said that she wanted to help.  So when I got home, Carly came over and we got our Italian on.

Pasta International cookbook by Gertrude Harris

Here’s Gertrude’s recipe for the Bolognese Meat Sauce:

“When you see a dish listed on a menu as Bolognese, you know it will have this exciting sauce. It may be with lasagne, with tagliantelle, with rigatoni, ziti or other large tubed forms of pasta; this rich sauce will cling to the pasta and to folds or holes in it. Use a large deep kettle of about four-quart (4 L) capacity of enameled ware or even better, flameproof earthenware, set on an asbestos pad, for the long, slow simmering of this fine sauce. The vessel does not require a lid, but long cooking is vital — three to five hours.”

4 tablespoons (60 ml) unsalted butter

4 tablespoons (60 ml) olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

2 celery stalks with leaves, chopped

1 small carrot, scraped and chopped

1 pound (500 g) ground lean beef

½ teaspoon (3ml) salt

1 cup (250 ml) dry white wine

½ cup (125 ml) milk

Generous pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

1½ pounds (750 g) ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped

“Heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat and sauté the onion for several minutes or until soft. Add the celery and carrot and cook very gently for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the ground meat, breaking it up with a fork, and cook just until all of the raw redness is gone. Stir in salt and wine. Raise heat to moderately high and cook until the wine has completely evaporated, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to medium, add the milk and nutmeg and cook until the milk has evaporated. Now add the tomatoes and stir for several minutes, so ingredients are thoroughly blended. When the sauce starts to bubble, reduce heat as low as possible, so the sauce barely simmers. Continue cooking, uncovered, for at least 3 to 4 hours or more. It should be watched fairly steadily during this time. Taste and correct seasoning. Makes approximately 2½ cups (625 ml); 6 servings on pasta.”

Heres some alterations we made to the recipe:

-We didn’t use carrots or celery because we don’t really like those.

-We added garlic because we thought it was ridics that a pasta dish didn’t call for GARLIC.

-Another ingredient we added was Carly’s tears because the medium sized onion she cut made her cry the load.

-Instead of freshly grated nutmeg, we just used some nutmeg spice that Carly had because a worker at TJ’s told me that nutmeg was seasonal so they didn’t have any in store.

-For the dry white wine, we used a chardonnay called Green Fin from Trader Joe’s (it’s also made from organic grapes).

-We added in garlic salt, oregano and freshly grated parmesan cheese to the sauce to give it more flavor.

-And instead of cooking the sauce for 3 to 4 hours, we just cooked it for about 45 minutes after we put everything into the pan. We did this because we realized that 4 hours was too long and that we were really hungry.

For the noodles, we just used some leftover spaghetti noodles that I had from Trader Joe’s (Trader Joe’s really pulled through today). We filled a medium sized pot with water until it was half full.  Then when the water got to a boil (bubbles going like crazy), we added in the noodles and also put in some olive oil and salt. Salt to give it a little flavor and olive oil so the noodles didn’t stick to the bottom of the pot while cooking.

The Noodle Test:

After 10 minutes, Carly suggested we do the “noodle test”. I had no idea what the “noodle test” was, but before I could ask I saw her throwing noodles up at the ceiling. I was so confused. And when I asked her why she did that she said that that’s how you tell if the noodles are done. But then she couldn’t remember if noodles that stuck to the ceiling were cooked or the opposite. It was pretty hilarious because she just threw noodles on my ceiling for no reason. But then she looked it up online and if the noodles DON’T STICK then they’re finished & ready to be served.

When everything was finished and plated, we sat down with our bolognese sauced pasta, toasted sourdough bread, glasses of chardonnay and watched Beauty and the Beast together. Despite the fact that we were impatient by not cooking it for the full 3 to 4 hours, the sauce turned out to be really delicious. It wasn’t too heavy and it had the perfect amount of flavor. It was pretty simple to make and didn’t take too long to prepare everything. Mamma Mia!