Bolognese Sauce

I am certain that this a bastardization of ‘true’ Bolognese sauce, but I kind of don’t care. I’ve read about a hundred recipes for this and, based on that, came up with a sauce that incorporates those techniques and adds stuff I like (and it was a great use of my leftover cheese rind!). It takes a good couple of hours, but much of that is inactive time, just needing a stir every so often.

3 T olive oil
soup meat, beef or pork, one large chunk (250 g/0.5 lb)
soup bone, at least one with a good amount of marrow
1 lb (500 g) ground beef and pork
onion, finely diced
2 stalks celery, finely diced
1 large or two small carrots, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, put through garlic press
4 T tomato paste
pinch ground nutmeg
1/2 t ground black pepper
1/2 t dried thyme
1 c full-bodied red wine (Montepulciano, Valpolicella, etc.)
1 bottle crushed tomatoes (680 g)
2 c chicken or beef stock
3/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 Parmesan cheese rind
pinch salt (optional)
pinch sugar (optional)
1 c cream or whole milk (optional)

In a large, heavy pot, heat oil to medium high. When it just starts smoking, add soup meat and bones, until you get a good sear on all sides of the meat. Turn heat down to medium and add ground meat, cooking until no longer pink, but not browned. Be sure to break up any large chunks.

Add onion, celery, carrot and garlic. Cook mixture, stirring frequently for 10-15 minutes, or until vegetables have softened and shrunk considerably. Stir in tomato paste, distributing well, and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add nutmeg, pepper, thyme and wine, stir well and allow to cook down until 3/4 reduced.

Add tomatoes, chicken stock and parsley, stir well and bring to a gentle boil. Drop in cheese rind, turn heat down to medium low and allow sauce to simmer and thicken for at least one hour, stirring occasionally. While simmering, check the marrow bone – when the marrow is softened all the way through, push it out and stir into the sauce. Taste sauce after one hour and add salt or sugar (to taste). If using, stir in milk or cream and continue simmering for 30 minutes to an hour more. When finished, discard cheese rind, soup meat (it will be very tough) and bones. Serve over pasta or use as lasagna filling.

*Most recipes start with pancetta. I thought I had enough meat already, but I imagine it would taste great if you really want to go crazy. The milk/cream is a texture thing. Some people feel it blunts the meaty flavor of the sauce. Nothing could blunt the meatiness of this stuff. I blame the marrow.


I don’t think I’ll ever buy mayonnaise again. The original recipe came from Mark Bittmann’s nifty How to Cook Everything app on my iPod touch, and it pretty much convinced me of that. It’s really easy to modify this recipe to get exotic — lots of ideas in the app for that, too.

It’s not a wholesale cut-n-paste of his recipe; we’ve found that we need lots less oil than he calls for. Here’s our base recipe; look for variations in the comments.

1 egg yolk
2 tsp mustard (honey mustard is nice for a little sweetness)
100 ml neutral oil (extra virgin olive oil would be OK too)
Salt / pepper to taste
1 tbsp acid, like sherry vinegar, white wine vinegar, or lemon juice

Sarah picked up a tall cylindrical melamine beaker/pitcher thing with rubberized feet at a nearby department store for a few Euro, and it’s perfect for making mayo with our stick blender’s whisk attachment. You can use a normal-shaped bowl too (we’ve done it, it works), but this beakery pitcher thing seems to make the process more efficient.

Combine the yolk and mustard with the whisk. Slowly drizzle in the oil in a thin stream until it thickens while you’re whipping, and it’s done when the the stuff looks like mayonnaise. Then thoroughly combine in the flavors and acids, and you’re done.

We like that this recipe makes about a cup of final product; perfect for the two of us with left-over chicken/turkey/whatever to turn into a couple days’ worth of sandwiches.

Mustard Jar Salad Dressing

This less an actual recipe than a logical thought progression. It blew up on the internet a couple of months ago and we finally almost emptied a mustard to give it a try. Your jar needs to have a tight-fitting lid because you just shake it up in there. And it calls for Dijon mustard, but you can probably use whatever’s on hand – just adjust salt and sugar accordingly.

1 T Dijon mustard, in its jar
1/4 c white or red wine vinegar
3/4 c olive oil
1/2 t sugar
1/2 t salt
pinch ground black pepper

Put all ingredients in jar, screw on lid and shake until emulsified. Taste and adjust spices.

Here’s an example of how to adjust the method: we had honey Dijon, so I omitted the sugar. I also used sherry vinegar. Other good herbs with mustard include tarragon or rosemary.

Sausage Gravy

Well, we have a good biscuit recipe. Isn’t this the next logical step? This is not by any stretch of the imagination diet friendly, but it’s absolutely delicious. Plus, it’s enough work that you won’t want to make it that often.

1/2 lb bulk pork sausage, crumbled (or make your own!)
2 T flour
1 1/2 c weak beef broth
1/2 c whipping cream
1/2 t sage
1/2 t black pepper
pinch ground cloves

In a deep skillet over medium heat, brown sausage, breaking up with back of spatula while cooking. Drain off fat except for one tablespoon and stir flour into meat until no lumps remain, then add beef broth, stirring frequently until liquid comes to a gentle boil. Reduce heat to low and add cream in a slow stream while stirring. Add sage, pepper and cloves and stir constantly until mixture thickens and just begins to boil – gravy should well coat the back of spoon. Remove from heat and serve immediately.

Baked Artichoke Dip

Every time I’ve had artichoke dip in a restaurant, I’ve gone home and tried to reproduce it. Unfortunately, most of the recipes out there are LOADED with mayonnaise. A little mayo is fine, but too much and it just takes over. Plus, when it’s cooked, it leaves a layer of oil over everything. Blech.

So I finally found a recipe online that didn’t predominantly feature mayo and I altered it (greatly) to my liking. Here’s what I ended up with. We think it’s a winner!

8 oz cream cheese (lowfat works here)
3/4 c sour cream
1/4 c mayonnaise
1/4 c grated Parmesan cheese
2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
2 c shredded mozzarella (I used gouda – mozz is hard to find)
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
12 oz jar of artichoke hearts, drained
2 T dried minced onion

Preheat oven to 350° F (176° C). In a food processor, combine first 5 ingredients and pulse on low until blended. Add in mozzarella, cayenne and black pepper until just distributed. Add artichokes and onion and pulse 5-6 times, until artichokes are coarsely chopped and distributed. Pour mixture into 9×9 (we used a ceramic loaf pan) and bake for 40-45 minutes or until bubbly and brown. Serve warm and spread on crackers or rye toast.

trying new things, like making our own pizza

We got inspired on New Year’s Eve by Matthias’ awesome pizza. And I’ve been thinking about revamping our recipes as part of the blog. This might look weird at first, but if I can make it work to my satisfaction, I’ll migrate all our recipe posts into this format. The point is to use the blog for its blogging purposes and not misuse it for something else, and re-creating blog functionality inside the non-blog parts of it should we ever decide we wanted a blog after all. Confused? Try working in my office sometime.

We started with the Ultimate Pizza Sauce as a base for our sauce, but as predictable, there wasn’t enough garlic in the recipe. Here is our enhanced version:

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup onions, chopped
1/4 cup celery, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
2 (70g) cans tomato paste (the little bitty ones)
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 small bay leaf (we meant to put this in, honestly…just forgot it)
1 teaspoon celery seeds (it was supposed to be fennel, but we forgot)

1. In a large skillet, melt butter with the oil. Add the onion, celery and garlic and saute until soft and transparent.
2. Add tomato sauce and tomato paste and stir until smooth.
3. Add remaining ingredients and bring to slow simmer.
4. Simmer for 30-60 minutes (or not at all depending on your taste and time frame).
5. Remove the bay leaf and spread the sauce on your prepared pizza dough.

Sour Cream Enchilada Sauce

Sometimes the red stuff is too heavy and ingredients for green are impossible to get here. So here’s an alternative with my personal favorite dairy product ever, sour cream. Makes enough for one 9×13 of enchiladas (12-16).

1/4 c butter
1/4 c flour
2 c weak chicken broth
1 c sour cream
2-4 jalapeño or 1 t chipotle peppers in adobo, chopped

Over medium heat, melt butter in a small saucepan. Whisk in flour until there are no lumps and cook, stirring constantly until roux is slightly browned. Stir in chicken broth a little at a time and cook until thick and bubbly. Turn heat down to low, stir in sour cream and peppers until smooth and heated through. Jalapeño will give a bright heat; chipotle will give a smokier flavor.

Homemade Red Enchilada Sauce

Basic chili powder/tomato based enchilada sauce. I make a half recipe, which is still a little more than I need for one 9×13 pan of enchiladas (12-16). If you have freezer space, go ahead and make a whole batch.

4 T butter
1/2 c chili powder
1/4 c flour
1/2 tsp garlic salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp oregano
5 c chicken or vegetable broth
1 can (400 g) tomato sauce

In a large, deep saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Combine all dry ingredients, stir well and add gradually to melted butter. Stir frequently until mixture is crumbly. Add chicken broth a little at a time and stir constantly, until all broth is added and there are no lumps. Keep stirring, add tomato sauce and bring to a gentle boil or until sauce is slightly thickened.

Saffron Zucchini Pasta Sauce

My favorite Italian restaurant here in Regensburg makes a wonderful saffron zucchini sauce, but it’s seasonal. Well, I got a hankering for it, so I found a recipe that appeared to have the right base ingredients except without the zucchini. I’ve tweaked it enough that I think I can call it my own now.

2 shallots, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 zucchini, julienned
2 T olive oil
pinch ground saffron
2/3 lb mascarpone cheese
2/3 c white wine
salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil to medium high in deep skillet and gently sauté shallots and garlic for about 3 minutes. Add zucchini and sauté for another 3 minutes or until zucchini wilts somewhat.

Reduce heat to medium and add saffron, cheese and half of wine to skillet, stirring often to melt cheese. Bring mixture to gentle boil and allow to simmer for 2 minutes. Stir in remaining wine and salt* and pepper. Allow to simmer another 3-5 minutes.

*Mascarpone is not a salty cheese, so it took a fair amount of salt to bring the flavor out. I used roughly 2 tsp (but I wasn’t measuring). Taste the sauce often to achieve the right flavor.

Homemade Salsa

It’s time to update this one! I’ve simplified my salsa technique and now it only takes about 10 minutes active time. Roasting the tomatoes enhances their natural sweetness (sometimes improving lackluster produce) and reduces the odds you’re going to have a watery, sad salsa.

Note: If you don’t have a ton of storage space and cook a lot, you need a stick blender. Especially if it has a bunch of attachments (food processor bowls, whisks, etc.). I use mine at least a couple of times a week: smoothing out soups and sauces, making quick work of bread crumbs, whipping cream or egg whites, you name it. We have a 1.25 liter/5 cup blender attachment that makes very quick work of this.

8-10 medium tomatoes; Romas or San Marzanos are best, but any ripe tomato works
1 small white or yellow onion
1-2 hot green chilies; jalapeño or serrano are best, we can only get thai chilies
1 clove garlic
1 small bunch fresh cilantro
1-2 limes, juiced
1/4 t salt
1/4 t ground cumin

Heat the oven to 400°F/200°C. Slice tomatoes in half lengthwise, cutting out dense top of core but leaving the lower core and seedy goo. Lay all tomatoes on a large, rimmed baking sheet, cut side up. Sprinkle the cut surfaces with a little salt and roast for 30-40 minutes or until browned in spots and blistered. Set tomatoes aside to cool.

Cut top and bottom off of onion (the rooty and shooty bits) and slice lengthwise, discarding papery skin. Roast cut side up on a medium, rimmed baking sheet for 30 minutes or until browned in spots. If using a fleshy chili, stem and slice lengthwise and add cut side up to roasting onion for last 10-15 minutes of cook time. Since we use tiny thai chilies, we don’t bother roasting them. If you don’t like your salsa spicy, cut the seeds and membranes out of the chilies.

Place the roasted vegetables into a blender. Add peeled and quartered garlic, cilantro, juice of 1 lime, salt and cumin. Blend until large chunks are processed, taste and adjust seasonings as desired. This benefits from chilling for a couple of hours before serving.