Comforting Cravings on a Cold Night

I sit in the stillness of a quiet evening beneath an amber flame, warming my bones from the frigid, damp southern weather. I have conflicts on these evenings. Yearning for a warm morsel, but my body cannot seem to move from the heat of the fire. So, like in any good relationship, I compromise.  Throwing a wooly blanket around me, I swiftly walk to the kitchen like a fancy woman would in a long, tight skirt, except I am donning a plaid, woven bedspread. Nonetheless, I am on a mission. I crave the comfort of pasta, and not the skimpy sorts: the meaty, rich, velvety, luscious kind. I pour over the warmth of the flames from the stovetop as the sauces bubble and simmer. My spirits are instantly lifted. Ladling the white sauce over the dark, succulent meat sauce reminds me of the earth being blanketed by leaden snow. I gather up my vittles, traipse back to the fireplace, and gather with the ones I love over a warm, delightful meal. And in that moment, there is peace. In the midst of the chill, there is a gift, a gift of togetherness that both the bitter cold and the season bring. Give thanks for these moments when your heart and your tummy are both full and content.

Recipe: Serves 6

Bolognese Sauce:

1 carrot, roughly chopped

1 onion, chopped

1 rib of celery

2 garlic cloves, peeled

Small handful of parsley, chopped

½ pound of ground pork

½ pound ground sirloin

1 Tbs. of flour

1 ½ cups of vegetable stock

1 14-ounce can of San Marzano tomatoes

¼ cup of milk

½ cup of freshly grated Parmesan

Béchamel Sauce:

4 Tbs. of butter

4 Tbs. of flour

2 cups of milk

Salt, pepper, nutmeg to taste

1 pound of tagliatelle pasta, cooked till al dente

Fresh chopped parsley and Parmesan cheese, garnish

To make the meat sauce:

Put the carrot, celery, onion, garlic and parsley into a food processor and grind until the vegetables are smooth. Coat a large pot with oil and sauté vegetables until fragrant and soft. Add the pork and beef to the pot. Season with salt and pepper. Brown meat in the pot while breaking it up with a wooden spoon. Dust the tablespoon of flour over meat and vegetables. Add the stock, tomatoes and milk. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Cook uncovered for 1 ½ hours. Add Parmesan cheese and season to taste with salt and pepper. Toss in cooked pasta.

To make béchamel:

In a small saucepan, melt butter and mix in flour. Cook for just a few minutes to cook out the “flour” taste. Add the milk and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste. Keep on low heat and keep stirring while the sauce thickens. The sauce is ready whenever it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

To plate:

In each dish, spread a few tablespoons of the béchamel onto the bottom of the plate (or on top if you prefer.) Serve the pasta over the béchamel sauce and top with fresh parsley and Parmesan cheese.