This year we decided to do the less-than-traditional approach to Christmas Eve dinner. Last year, we did a big meal, the traditional holiday feast (sans Turkey) of ham, sprouts…ah, sprouts…yams etc, and in years past we’d tried going out for dinner but there was something just not that special about hitting the Fairfax Ruth’s Chris on Christmas Eve. Plus, when you’re sitting at a restaurant that charges you more for a steak than most people make in a year’s wages around the world, there is a whole complex that smacks you in the face. Also, I just have to say…and you beef lovers out there are fully welcome to find me and prove me wrong…I just don’t understand why you would EVER need to pay that much for a steak. I swear that I could walk my ass to a (grass) field, shoot a cow (I’d have to do so quickly and as a surprise because I hear stress makes meet taste all funky funk), carve off a prime cut, walk home and pan fry it in butter all for less money (by hourly rate and emotional damage) than it costs to eat at RC’s. However, it was a great gesture to be treated to those meals, but I’m glad we’ve moved on to the homemade fair.
C and I had a wonderful time in Italy this summer. We spent a great couple of days on a Tuscan tour thanks to our home base at her Uncle’s villa in Umbria. We made sure to stop by all the recommended spots from her very helpful and expressive Aunt…and she recommended very emphatically that we try the Tuscan peasant favorite, Pici. If you haven’t been to Italy or are (as I was mere minutes before we received this Prego recommendation) less than aware of the serious nuances that surround regional pasta’s in Italy, Pici is a peasant variety, much like Bucatini but lacking in a crucial ingredient, eggs. The eggs render a silken quality to pasta that American’s tend to associate with varieties from the Romagna, but this Tuscan dish has an almost crunchy quality to it. It’s not something that supposed to go with a dish like this, you know, it wouldn’t be served by people who could afford meat back in the day, but whatever, Italians already think we don’t know anything about food so let’s indulge them for a minute or two. However, it’s divine, truly…and I say that with full disclosure; I don’t know if Pici is actually that great, but I have great memories of it so get with the picture…YOU WILL LOVE IT!
So C and I went to Italy over the summer, but my parents went to Italy as well. They did it with a little more style. While we were traipsing around the country side, avoiding the touristy (expensive) areas, trying to drink the cheapest wine we could find they were living the life in style via a biking trip through Toscana complete with meals, bikes, castles and a few pools here and there. Needless to say, the are in love and mi madre found a wonderful Ragù alla Bolognese that we have subsequently fallen in love with. I’m putting our English measurements here, but you really should go to the source (http://culinariaitalia.wordpress.com), the blog is wonderful!
Enjoy and Merry Christmas!
Transposed from Culinaria Italia
1 1/3 cup minced beef – we recommend a thin, flat flank (or skirt)
2/3 cup pancetta, finely minced
¼ cup finely chopped carrots
¼ cup chopped onion
¼ cup chopped celery
1/3 cup tripe concentrated tomato puree (we used 2 tablespoons of tomato paste dissolved in 1/3 cup of water)
½ glass red or white wine
¾ cup of fresh milk
Salt and Pepper to taste
Tagliatelle (for the traditional version) or Pici if you want to mess…I mean MIX…things up J
Fry the pancetta gently in a little olive oil until it starts to release its fat. Be careful not to overcook the pancetta.
Add the vegetables and fry until the onions are transparent, stir occasionally.
Add the beef and cook until it is lightly browned. When the beef starts to make a faint, “popping” noise, it’s finished.
Add the tomato puree and the wine and mix well. Add the milk, little by little, taking care not to boil and thus curdling the milk, until it is completely absorbed.
Season the mixture with salt and pepper, cover and cook over low heat at a mild simmer for 3 to 4 hours. Stir occasionally and if it looks like the sauce is drying out, add a little more milk.
In the meantime, cook the pasta according to the package directions. Toss the pasta with Parmeasan cheese before adding the sauce. Serve with the pasta (make sure you use a thick noodle, thin noodles like spaghetti won’t hold the sauce)!