Thank you to Cate Cooper of WineChic Events for today’s installment of Winesday at The Heritage Cook!
It is another Winesday and I have been pondering what to share and where to take you after the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend. All roads lead home and home is where the heart is most days. As we wind our way through the Plaza area of Healdsburg (Sonoma county), affectionately called the “Burg,” we are offered many choices in tasting rooms not only as a destination, but also as a great place to try the varietals of many vineyards.
Today’s wine-pairing pick is Portalupi, a favorite Sonoma County wine. Portalupi is headed by the husband and wife team of Tim Borges and Jane Portalupi Borges, whom I have had the great pleasure of knowing since they opened up across the street from one of my clients, In Vino Veritas. Tim and Jane have been in the business of making wine for 30 years and began their own label in 2002. They came to the Plaza in Healdsburg a couple of years ago.
This year Portalupi made a splash with their win for Best In Class Barbera, 2009 selection. I love to pair it with pasta tossed with my Bolognese sauce. It is a hearty Barbera and will stand tall next to tomato-based sauces in a variety of the Northern Italian cuisines, including today’s recipe. As for the wine to use in the sauce, that I hope will “occupy” your crock pot, a hearty burgundy or Sangiovese will rock your sauce’s flavor to the moon as the alcohol content simmers down to the slow burn of a milder flavor explosion sure to excite your palette.
The Barbera from Portalupi won the Best in Class from the local Harvest Fair Awards. It is limited to those in the industry and is the Academy Awards of the Sonoma county wine industry, recognizing the top wines of our area. Held annually in Santa Rosa, California, over 1000 wines are entered and subjected to blind tastings with 25 judges in a 3-day period. The judges come from across the country and other countries as well and it is a great honor to be selected as the Best of any category.
I love comfort foods and seasonal foods most during the quiet of winter, and often I find myself making something that can be used for several purposes, like my favorite Bolognese sauce that has been my secret for many years. Today I am sharing it with you!
In addition to tossing with pasta, you can add a white sauce and utilize this versatile sauce in a lasagne like I often do or as the topping to a penne with pesto sauce, my all time favorite sauce for any season. This ragu is made with two kinds of meat, a mild pork sausage which adds depth to the sauce, along with a ground chuck that blends well and absorbs the flavors of the vegetables, tomatoes and blend of spices that can be as individual as you like. Ground chicken or turkey also works well in this recipe as we look for leaner meat choices. It will have a paler color and texture but you can compensate for this by increasing the quantities of herbs and spices.
Bolognese sauce or ragu alla bolognese as it is known in Italy, is enjoyed throughout the world, but is especially beloved in the United States and Britain. Its origins are in Bologna where it is always served with Tagliatelle rather than the spaghetti or linguini common in America. I love the fennel in the sauce that has such an affinity to the acid in the tomatoes.
I love the variety of sauces and often make extra sauce to have on hand especially this time of the year when you never know who is going to end up on your door step or when you may have a last minute schedule change. It’s great to be able to have dinner ready in a flash or you can make a lasagne to freeze and cook at a later date.
Pasta sauces are endlessly flexible and loved the world over. Make a pot of this sauce when you want a comforting meal that is guaranteed to please the masses!!
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
Whenever you cook with wine, make sure you use something you would enjoy drinking on its own, preferably the same or similar to what you will be serving with your meal. NEVER use a bottle labeled “Cooking Wine.” It is dreadful tasting and will ruin your food!
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1/4 cup unsmoked bacon, chopped
- 1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
- 1/3 yellow or red bell pepper, finely chopped
- 1 small onion finely chopped
- 6 oz sliced portobello mushrooms, or other variety of your choice
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
- 1 lb ground chuck, crumbled
- 8 oz mild Italian pork sausage, crumbled
- 1 (14 oz) can crushed tomatoes
- 1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
- 1 (20 oz) can tomato sauce
- 1 bay leaf
- 3 tbsp basil
- 1 tsp crushed fennel (feel free to leave this out if your sausage contains fennel)
- Crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
- 2 cups dry red wine
- 1 cup water
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Pasta, any shape of your choice
- Grated Parmesan cheese, optional
- Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until browned, about 10 minutes. Add the carrot, bell peppers, onions, mushrooms and garlic, and sauté until soft, about 8 minutes.
- Add the ground chuck and pork and cook until browned. Drain off the grease and discard. Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste and tomato sauce. Stir in the bay leaf, basil, fennel and red pepper flakes. Add the wine and water. Simmer at least 40 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings with the salt and pepper.
- Cook pasta al dente, according to package directions. Drain and toss with a little of the ragu. Serve immediately, passing Parmesan cheese at the table.
- Unattended Cooking Method: Once the vegetables and meat have been cooked, discard excess grease and transfer solids to a slow cooker using a slotted spoon. Add the remaining ingredients except pasta and Parmesan. Cover and cook on Low heat for 5 to 8 hours. This long cooking intensifies the flavors. When ready to serve, toss with al dente pasta and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
- Yield: about 6 servings