I’ve posted about my favorite Italian comfort food before, but I’ve decided it’s time to wow you with its deliciousness in a way that will allow replication. This dish was the very first recipe (and demonstration of technique) I learned in Marcella Ansaldo’s introduction to Italian Regional Cuisine course at International Culinary School Apicius in Florence. Marcella was fabulous and ended up to be one of my very favorite and most professional teachers while I was there.
Typically you’d make your own pasta (once you’ve done it a few times, it’s really not overwhelming), but if you’re in a hurry you could use dry pasta, preferably something with texture like rigatoni, penne, or egg fettucini.
All of the measurements below are approximate. You’ll develop your own liking over time. Serves 4.
1 large carrot, small dice
2 stalks celery, small dice
1/2 medium/small onion, diced
1/2 C red wine
1/3lb lean ground beef
1/4lb ground pork
50g (1 quarter inch thick) slice of pancetta (if you can get it smoked, that’s the best option)
1.5-2 C san marzano or other good quality tomatoes, preferably whole
1 tsp chili flakes (this is non traditional)
salt & pepper
Heat about 1T olive oil in a large sauce pan. Start your water to boil at the same time, or soon after. Sautee on medium low heat the onion, carrot, and celery which are chopped a small dice, evenly sized. You do not want to caramelize anything here–simply soften and cook. I remember Marcella telling us that Italians 1) do not like to see their vegetables and 2) do not over cook them like the French. Don’t forget the salt at this point, either.
Once softened but not brown, add the pancetta, diced the same size, and if it’s not smoked, allow it to cook until almost crispy (you may need to adjust the heat upwards). If it’s smoked, cook together for 1-2 minutes, and add the ground meat. You should mix the meat together first and make sure not too add too large of chunks. Once the meat is mostly cooked, crank the heat a bit up and add the wine*.
When the vapor coming from the pan is no longer astringent, add the chili flakes and the tomato, and reduce to simmer. Adjust salt & pepper.
Mix your sauce and pasta well in a large bowl/in the pasta pan and serve with good Parmesan (I will cry if you use the pre-grated stuff, seriously).
*If you’re smart, you’ll buy a dry, red Italian wine that you might actually want to drink not only because it will taste better, but because then you’ll have an appropriate wine to go with your dinner.
As a side note, we ate it up with some Liguria Bakery Foccacia, which I am very pleased to say is being retailed at my neighborhood Andronico’s, for four times the price as at the bakery and not as fresh, but it is so freaking good and so inconvenient to get at the bakery that I am happy to pay it.