Sunday, November 21, 2010

Spaghetti Rigati al Sugo di Carne

Spaghetti rigati pasta with Italian meat sauce!

     There are a few different sugo di carne preparations in Italy.  Sugo di carne is Italian meat sauce.  One version of sugo di carne is heavy with pork fat and is more like a ragu.  The ground beef and tomato sauce version of sugo di carne is the best known of standard Italian meat sauce recipes.  This sugo di carne is the same sauce that is used to make a Piemontese lasagna.  It is the same as a New York Italian restaurant style meat sauce too.
     The proportion of meat should be much higher than the amount of tomato in this sauce.  This is a traditional recipe with no extra ingredients added out of personal taste.  In a way, this sugo di carne is a mother sauce, because many Italian pasta recipes call for this style of sugo di carne.
     There is one thing that is important to remember when cooking sugo di carne.  It is not how many ingredients that you put in meat sauce, it is the cooking technique and quality of the basic required ingredients that makes a great meat sauce!
     I apprenticed my first few years of cooking with great Italian chefs.  I learned not to cook to personal taste and to cook with respect for tradition and perfection during those years.  This sugo di carne recipe is one that I learned from a great Italian chef who was famous in New York City for his cooking expertise.  He cooked some great food!
     Later during my career, I noticed that this same sugo di carne recipe did not change from one Italian restaurant to the next, because it is a traditional standardized recipe.  When an Italian recipe is standardized, there is no need for improvement.  Why improve a sauce that is already perfected!

     Sugo di Carne Recipe:  
     This recipe makes enough for 3 medium pasta portions!  Some people like big portions of Italian food, so this recipe may only be enough for 2 large portions!
     Heat a pot over medium low heat.
     Add 5 tablespoons of olive oil.
     Add 4 cloves of  finely chopped garlic.
     Add 1/3 cup of very finely minced onion.
     Add 1/3 cup of very finely minced carrot.
     Add 1/3 cup of very finely minced celery.  
     Stir and saute, till the fine soffritto vegetables become tender, but not browned at all.
     Add 6 ounces of ground veal.
     Add 10 ounces of lean ground lean beef.
     Stir the meat with a wire whisk occasionally as it cooks, so any clumps of ground meat are broken up into tiny pieces.  
     Note:  Clumps of cooked ground meat are not desirable in this sauce!  Sugo di carne is meant to coat the pasta with flavor and cling to the pasta.  If you want big chunks of ground meat, then that is what meatballs are all about!
     Saute the ground meat, till it is fully cooked and lightly browned.  (Do not allow the meat to overly brown.  That is how a sugo di carne becomes greasy and dark in color!)
     Add just enough imported Italian canned crushed plum tomatoes to almost cover the meat.  (The proportion of ground meat should be slightly higher than the proportion of tomato!)
     Add 1/2 cup of imported Italian canned tomato puree or 3 pureed peeled and seeded fresh overripe plum tomatoes.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 3 pinches of basil.
     Add 3 pinches of oregano.
     Add 1 pinch of crushed dried red pepper.
     Add 2 pinches of whole fennel seed.  (Do not add too much fennel seed to a sugo di carne, or that will be the only flavor that can be tasted!)
     Add 1/2 cup of dry red wine.
     Add 1/2 cup of light beef broth.
     Raise the temperature to medium heat.
     When the sauce starts to gently boil, reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Stir the sauce once every 4 or 5 minutes.
     Simmer the sauce for 30 to 35 minutes.
     Note:  Do not simmer this sauce all day!  Meat sauces that are cooked for too much time will start to lose their crisp flavor and bright color.  A meat sauce that is simmered too long will become acidic and dark in color!
     After the sugo di carne finishes simmering, the sauce should be a medium thick consistency and the small pieces of ground meat should be easy to see.  If the sauce becomes too thick, add a splash of light beef broth or chicken broth.
     Add 3 pinches of finely chopped curly parsley or Italian parsley.
     Keep the sauce warm over very low heat.

     Spaghetti Rigati al Sugo di Carne Recipe:
     Cook 1 portion of spaghetti rigati pasta in boiling water, till it becomes al dente.
     Just before the pasta finishes cooking, heat a saute pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add just enough of the meat sauce to coat 1 portion of pasta.  (About 6 to 8 ounces.)
     Drain the water off of the al dente cooked pasta.
     Add the pasta to the sauce in the pan.
     Toss the sauce and pasta together.
     Use a long tine carving fork to place the pasta on a plate.
     Spoon any extra sauce that remains in the pan over the pasta.
     Sprinkle some finely chopped parsley on the pasta.
     Sprinkle some freshly grated parmesan cheese or shaved parmesan cheese over the pasta.
     Garnish with a curly parsley sprig.

     Mama Mia!  The sugo di carne is rich with fine bits of ground beef and veal and it has just enough tomato to bind the sauce together.  Yum!  Ciao Baby!  ...  Shawna

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