Sunday, March 7, 2010

Tribute to Carlo

Spring, was that you?  Are you here for good?  Bringing me sunshine and daffodils?  Or was this undeniably gorgeous day akin to an appetizer?  Just a taste to whet my overwhelming appetite for greenery and warmer weather?  Either way, I'll take it.  M windows were open, the winter cobwebs vacuumed up, my dog next to me and my husband, wearing shorts and a t-shirt, swept away signs of winter from our porch.  To make this Sunday even better, Ladd took up residence in the kitchen to create one hell of a bolognese sauce.  Yep, this day was a perfect ten in my book. 

The idea to make bolognese started when Ladd and I began reminiscing about our Florida days.  We swapped favorite memories about places we used to frequent, things we used to do and the many people that affected our lives.  This inevitably led us to the topic of our neighbor, Carlo and the time we ate the most amazing bolognese ever.  Carlo and his wife were as Italian as they come: thick accents, warm smiles, and a kitchen that put out some rather tantalizing scents.  Carlo didn't live next door to us full-time; it was simply a vacation home for him.  When he was in town, I practically camped outside his kitchen window just to smell the aromas wafting my way.  Then, one day, as if the culinary gods were answering our prayers, Carlo knocked on our door with a large bowl in his hands.  He and his family were heading out of town again and they had lots of bolognese sauce left over.  Instead of throwing it away he thought he would see if we'd like to have some.  Would we?  It was all Ladd could do to act nonchalant as he accepted this saucy gift. Before they even exchanged good-byes, I had the water boiling for pasta and garlic bread toasting in the oven.  I just knew this sauce was going to be memorable.  Boy was I wrong.  It wasn't just memorable, it was life altering.  It was deep and rich and clung to the pasta in all the right places.  It was so complex that there was no way we could pin point all the ingredients.  We ate it every day for a week.  The next time we saw Carlo we stalked him for an opportunity to ask for the recipe.  I know, ballsy right?  The culinary gods were not generous that day and Carlo simply replied with, "I make my sauce with love."  Ah, love... of course.  Now, which aisle in the grocery store can I find that?

That was in 2006 and we're still talking about it. 

But today Ladd donned his Iron Chef apron, pulled out the red Mario Batali dutch oven and declared a tribute to our old neighbor Carlo.  The Frank Sinatra played, the Chianti uncorked early and the parmesan wedges sliced to snack on while he cooked.  We researched sauces for the better part of an hour.  In the end, we decided to try none other than Iron Chef Batali's real deal bolognese sauce with fresh pasta.  This recipe was intense.  When you look at it, your first inclination will be to feel overwhelmed.  Go ahead and feel this way because that's just what it is- overwhelming.  Ladd stuck with most of the recipe but we decided to go with a good quality beef broth instead of making our own "brodo" (Italian for broth).  He also added tomato paste to thicken it up just a tad.  It cooked for 5 hours (each of which became more and more difficult for me to stay patient).  Mario also recommended making fresh pasta. We purchased this from the store as well since we don't have the right tools to make homemade (the KitchenAid attachment is now on my wish list).  The end result was outstanding.  Not only did I fall in love with the sauce or the fresh pasta (which is waaay better than dried), but I think I fell even more in love with my husband!  He cleans, he does laundry and today he made a sauce that would have made our paisono, Carlo, proud.  How could I not fall head over heels?  I never thought we'd come close to replicating Carlo's sauce but Ladd proved that theory incorrect.  I guess he must have used that special ingredient Carlo talked about almost 4 years ago... love.

Click here for a copy of the Mario Batali's recipe: Tortellini alla Ragu Bolognesi

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