On Sunday nights I go over to my parents’ house and my dad and I make dinner. Sort of. Really I make it, unless it involves grilling, which dad does. We’ve been doing it for a couple of years and I really enjoy it. It’s hard to try out new recipes or make certain things for just one person so it’s fun for me to get to expand my repertoire. Sunday dinner was my dad’s idea and I think he might’ve done it because my mom, bless her heart, is not a great cook. She’s just not really interested in it, plus she’s got digestive issues so if she’s cooking it’s got zero spice and not a lot of flavor.
I’ve been craving lasagna and opened up the Serious Eats website and the first thing I saw was this:
It even says “Sunday dinner.” And I’ve been wanting to try to up my sauce game, so the Bolognese sounded like a perfect challenge. And it was. So much so that the recipe ended up taking me two whole Sundays. As dinnertime loomed closer on Sunday of week 1 I had to call an audible, bail out and order a pizza. First time I’ve had to abandon a recipe midstream.
Delay #1: I had to go to 4 (four) stores to find all the ingredients. I usually budget time for two stores, because I’m shopping on a Sunday afternoon and stocks are often low. The pesky ingredient I couldn’t find? Whole-milk mozzarella. The first three stores i went to carried it, but were out. At the fourth I grabbed the only package.
Delay #2: I’m sort of a cautious cook and I think I soft-pedaled the directions to simmer the sauce at medium-high heat. I was scared of scorching the bottom so I rolled along at a low simmer and couldn’t get the liquid to boil off. It just wouldn’t reduce for me. This is where I surrendered and called for pizza. Then I loaded my too-liquidy sauce into containers and took it home to finish on my stove. It took another three hours the next night for me to cook it down. And then it sat in the fridge until the next Sunday, which I wasn’t too upset about because stuff like this tastes better the longer it has time to mix and mingle right? RIGHT?
So we resumed the next Sunday, but I had to stop by work beforehand and that ended up taking longer than I expected. The only ingredients I didn’t still have on hand from last week were fresh basil and parsley. Adding that was the last step in the bolognese but didn’t do it at the time cause I thought the herbs would have more kick added fresh. I’m not sure that was the right decision. But since I was running late I only had time for one shopping run. And what were they out of? Fresh basil (I have a pot of it in my garden but had harvested it all the week before for round one). So I had to go with an inferior substitute.
When I got to my parents’ I discovered my mom had used all the whole milk I had bought the week before (they are skim milk drinkers so I assumed I was safe, WRONG) so Mom went back to the store for me while I made the ricotta mixture. And guess what? No food processor, so I had to make it in a blender. I had to throw in a little milk to help it along because the ricotta was so thick. So of course it came out too thin. We got to the point in the recipe where the directions say “spread half the ricotta mixture on top of noodles with a spatula” which made me laugh out loud as I was pouring it out of the blender like a thick milkshake.
When parmesan came up I had forgotten all about it, so I asked mom to grate it for me and she promptly sliced half her thumb off. “Check the grater for bloody flesh.” Great. (I did not find any.)
I did do great with the besciamella. It was a glorious sexy thick sauce. I heard Barry White in my head as I was stirring.
I was having my mom read the assembly instructions to me line by line so I didn’t miss anything, but when we got to the end I had three noodles left, so we skipped a step somewhere. I just threw the noodles on top and scraped out what little sauce/ricotta/besciamalla I had left to cover them.
Then I spilled probably a cup of the ricotta mixture out of the baking dish into the stove as I was putting it in the oven, and gave myself a paper cut with the tin foil as I was lining the cookie sheet which went underneath the dish to catch any spillover. But it’s not a party until there’s blood, right? RIGHT?
End result? It was delicious. So rich and hearty that you can’t eat a lot at once though, so we will have leftovers for quite a while. More stuff to go in the freezer. But it’s very much a meat-and-dairy experience. There’s not a lot of tomato action, which I think threw my parents off a bit. My mom’s recipe is all about those thick noodles, meat and tomato sauce. As the recipe says “Unlike red sauce joints whose Bolognese is not much more than tomato sauce with ground beef, this ragù is all about the meat.” The cheese is kind of an afterthought. So if you’re expecting kind of a souped-up Stouffer’s it could be a disappointment. I used store-bought broth and ricotta (the non-stabilizer kind that’s discussed) and the Barilla no-boil noodles recommended in the comments section under the recipe on the SE website. I used all the meats as suggested, including the chicken livers
Would I do it again? Maybe. What would I do different? Better planning re: shopping runs. Fresh basil would’ve added another dimension. I would make the bolognese ahead of time so it’s just white sauces on cooking day. I would be sure I have the food processor or a mixer w/whisk on hand. The result gets two enthusiastic thumbs up but I’m not sure it was worth the effort. I’ll update with a verdict on the leftovers.
UPDATE: Still delicious.
UPDATE TWO: from the freezer, still tasty.