Yes friends, I’m stooping to the vanity-project gesture of including a recipe here, but, what the hell, maybe something with a practical application for a change on this site is not such a bad thing.
This is basically a variation on a Bolognese sauce that I’ve been fooling around with for years and it turned out so well last night I decided to post it here. It’s quick, easy and relatively cheap to make; the main difference from a traditional Bolognese is that I add capers and green olives for a little tang and texture and I use ground pork instead of ground beef. Except for burgers, I’ve been using either ground pork or turkey in place of beef in many recipes because I find they are lighter, less greasy, have better taste and texture and take on the flavours around them more.
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled and finely diced
5 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
I lb. lean ground pork and 1 package mild Italian sausage meat
2 28-oz. tins of crushed tomatoes
(I use canned Utopia Organic crushed tomatoes, from Leamington, Ontario. They’re more expensive than any other brand, but well worth it – they have great taste, colour and texture. If you want to be a real Gustavo Gourmet, you can go to all the trouble of buying fresh Roma tomatoes – that is, if you can find any decent ones – then blanching them, letting them cool, peeling them and making a sauce from scratch with them. But honestly, I work everyday and many nights, so who has the time? I’ve tried the harder method and it didn’t taste any better to me than using the Utopia tomatoes.)
1 tbsp. capers
About 1/2 cup sliced manzanilla olives (I’m lazy, I use the pre-sliced ones from a jar.)
Splash of white wine – between 1/2 cup and one cup, to taste.
(Most Italians use red wine in making this kind of sauce, but I prefer white because it doesn’t darken the colour of the sauce – when it’s finished, this sauce has a brilliant red colour that’s very appealing. I definitely recommend drinking red wine with the finished product though, never white. C’mon now, get serious.)
In a deep skillet or a pot, warm the olive oil over medium heat. I add a few splashes of Frank’s Buffalo Wing Hot Sauce to the oil when it’s warming; it’s not exactly high-end stuff, but it adds a delightful tang to things. If you use it, be careful though, it doesn’t have a governor on the lid so it tends to come out fast. When the oil is warm, add the chopped onions and garlic and cook them until they begin to soften.
(In the meantime, a word about the meat. I normally use just ground pork when I make this sauce, but last night at the supermarket they also had some Johnsonville Italian sausage meat available – it comes in a tray package thingy just like their sausages, but this is just the ground pork with spices. I decided to try using both – after all, one of my cooking maxims is “nothing exceeds like excess” – I was a bit worried the result would be too meaty, but it was perfect. I’m convinced the spicing and texture of the sausage meat added a lot to the end result, so I’m sticking with this from now on.)
Add the meat to the pot, taking care to break it up into little bits by poking and stirring it with a wooden spoon. You want the meat to be distributed evenly in small pieces throughout the sauce, rather than in big chunks. You may add a little salt, pepper and ground oregano to the pork as it’s cooking (the oregano is optional.) When the meat has cooked through, drain the excess fat (there’s not actually that much.)
Add the tomatoes, capers and olives and stir everything together until even. Depending on the thickness and consistency desired, decide how much wine to add – I used the scientific method of splashing some in right out of the bottle and swooshing it around till it looked about right – worked great. Continue stirring and cooking this over medium heat until it starts to bubble a little – when the first blob splashes onto the stove top, you know it’s time to turn it down to low. At this point, I add a couple of handfuls of grated Romano cheese, a teaspoon of sugar to cut the acidity of the tomatoes, give it a good stir and put the lid on. It should cook on low like this with the occasional stir for another 20 or 30 minutes, then it’s done.
When done, the sauce should taste mostly of tomatoes and meat (imagine that), with a slightly funky undertone from the capers and olives. It takes less than an hour and works well on short pasta (penne, fusilli, rigatoni) but I prefer it on spaghetti, which, along with Chianti, peanut butter and Count Basie, is one of man’s greatest inventions.
There’s one handy tip about pasta I’ve learned from living with an Italian (and let’s face it, you’re never really living with just one) that I’d like to share. When you pour the cooked pasta out to strain, rinse the pot to remove any starch and put it on a trivet next to the sink. Put two or three ladles of the sauce (mostly the liquid if possible) in the bottom of the pot, then add the pasta and some Romano or Parmesan cheese and toss. This way the pasta gets coated with a little sauce and cheese and you can use less of both on top, plus it’s friggin’ delicious this way.
I hope you enjoy making and eating this simple, delish sauce and I should point out the “recipe” with the two meats makes quite a lot. Three servings were eaten last night at my place and the leftover sauce filled three good-sized mason jars – oh darn, we’ll have to have more.
© 2013, Steve Wallace. All rights reserved.