Everyone was really excited in my house this week. Our friend Ary came to visit. He used to be my husband’s roommate, and about 12 years ago, he moved back to Brazil, where he was born and raised. The last time we saw him was about 4 years ago. He stopped by hoping to surprise us, and he succeeded, since, as I mentioned, he lives in Brazil now, and he was probably the last person we expected to see that evening. So of course, we invited him to stay for supper, but as we had not planned on having a dinner guest, I threw together whatever I could. Dinner turned out to be carmelized onions and goat cheese on one of those pre-made supermarket pizza shells. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t enough for dinner, either. We opened a bottle of wine, and Ary brought 2 more along, and the long and the short of it is that we were all pretty looped by the end of the evening, what with eating so little and drinking so much. Honestly, though, aside from the mortification I felt not having a better meal to feed a dear friend who we were so delighted to see, it was a lovely evening. We laughed and talked far into the night. That is the way it is with old friends like Ary. No matter how many years have gone by between visits, or what else is going on in your life, when one becomes reacquainted with a true friend, it is like picking up where you left off.
We haven’t seen Ary since that last visit, but every once in a while we are in touch with him. This time around, Ary sent us an e-mail several weeks ago that he was coming to visit, so I had time to redeem myself in the dinner department. He was recently married, and he brought his wife along as well, and we loved her. This visit was at least as good as the last one, with two major improvements: the food was yummy and plentiful, and Ary’s wife Marilia became a new ‘old friend.’
We decided to make a pasta dish with a sauce that could be made ahead of time and left to simmer on the stovetop. Making homemade fettuccini took the dinner from good to extra special, and was really quite simple to do. My only advice is that when drying the pasta sheets, make sure to keep them far above the ground, especially if you have pets, as we do. In the picture you can see that our pasta is well above Schnauzer level. The best thing about this meal, aside from the company, was that the pasta dough was made 3 days before, was run through the pasta machine and turned into fettuccini the night before, and the Bolognese sauce was made that afternoon. When our guests arrived, all that was left to do was open the wine and visit. About 10 minutes before we wanted to eat, we turned the stovetop on to boil the water, and then, presto! Dinner was served.
The Bolognese sauce was liberally adapted from Saveur magazine and will feed four hungry people:
2 tbs. olive oil
2 ribs of celery, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
½ yellow onion, finely chopped
1 lb ground beef, veal or pork (I use some of each)
½ cup dry white or red wine (I use whichever I have opened, usually red)
2 tbs. tomato paste
2 cups half and half
14 oz canned San Marzano tomatoes, diced
Put the olive oil in the bottom of a large cast iron skillet or dutch oven on medium heat. Add carrots, onions and celery, and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes until they begin to brown. Add the ground meat and cook, breaking it up as you stir for about 5 to 10 minutes. Ann the wine and the tomatoes, and continue to stir, breaking up the meat as you stir. Add the tomato paste and stir to incorporate. Lower heat to low, and stir from time to time as the sauce thickens and reduces. After about ½ hour, add the half and half, stir to combine and continue to simmer at least another hour, or longer. Add salt and pepper to taste. If the sauce needs more liquid, you can add more tomato.
I will sometimes add the juice from one more can of whole tomatoes, and then save the actual tomatoes for another purpose. In my case, that purpose would be to make a non-meat sauce for my vegetarian daughter, so it works out quite well. I am sure you can find something else to do with those tomatoes if you do not have a daughter who is a vegetarian. Buon Appetito!