|CLASSIC pasta||Jason's bolognese sauce|
Jason Epstein, an old friend and compatriot from Random House days, is not only a brilliant editor and publisher and a much-admired innovator in the publishing world, but also a wonderful cook and writer about all things cooking. He wrote regularly for the Sunday New York Times magazine at a time when that publication had a credible cooking series, and he has also just written a delightful book: Eating, a Memoir. Pick it up! It does as the jacket blurb says: whet the appetite of all who love good food and delightful company.
Jason believes his Bolognese sauce, which he has adapted from Mario Battali's Babbo Cooks (see Library) is one of the all-time great ragus. It is, although we think our "greatest" is just as good! So here is Jason's. Do them both and compare. Jason's does not use tomatoes, but rather a small can of tomato pasta.
for the sauce (exactly as written):
In a large pot, heat a little olive oil and soften a few chopped garlic cloves with some diced onion, carrot and celery. Cube a quarter pound of pancetta (unsmoked Italian bacon) or, preferably, guanciale, cured from hog cheeks but not smoked, and spin the cubes for a few seconds in a food processor. Scrape the pancetta or guanciale into the pot, and stir until it begins to melt. Then crumble a pound each of ground veal and pork into the pot and over a medium-hot flame, brown the meats. Then toss in a small handful of dried oregano leaves, mix everything together.
Battali calls for a small can of tomato paste at this point, or use three generous tablespoons of strattu (see ingredients) instead.
Now add a cup of milk and another of white wine, reduce the flame to a simmer, cover loosely, and let it simmer over the lowest flame for an hour or so, checking from time to time that the sauce hasn't dried out and begun to burn. Add more milk and wine as necessary.
Add sea salt and freshly-ground pepper to taste carefully. Then sprinkle a good handful of very fragrant fresh thyme leaves from the garden if you have one, into the ragu.
for the pasta:
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, cook a pound of tagliatelle until it's al dente, and transfer the pasta with tongs to the ragu and mix thoroughly, saving the pasta water if you are not planning to use the ragu immediately.
Drop a tong-full into each large pasta bowl, sprinkle with grated parmegiana, and serve while hot. The dish is even better the second day; as leftovers.