In that vein, I did a very simple, everyday, rustic table setting recently inspired by the time I spent in Italy.
For the place settings, I used inexpensive bamboo mats from the dollar store, plain white dishes, stemless wine glasses for the red wine, and black tumblers for water. I wanted to keep everything simple, but I did add individual tiny milk glass bowls to hold grated cheese and parsley.
Better than my usual, but not really note worthy....in this case, it was all about the food. I made one of my favorites, Spaghetti Bolognese, or spaghetti with meat sauce.
|It's hours to dinner, but Cleo is not taking any chances and is already in place for any scraps that fall.|
I've talked a lot about food before, but rarely give recipes. One reason is that I generally don't cook with one. I've cooked long enough that I now have a good since of what the food needs and what elements are essential and what can be left out. Note, this nonchalant approach only works with cooking and not baking, which is a precise art. Hence, why I rarely bake, and when I do, the results turn out like this.
However, I thought that if I started of with my ingredient list and talked you through step by step, letting you know what I think you can change to meet your own taste, it would work. So here goes.
- 1-2 tablespoons olive oil. (and you're sauteing, so it doesn't have to be the greatest. you can use just plain vegetable oil, but it will give the extra flavor olive oil does.)
3. 1/4-1/2 cup minced tasso. (tasso is a cajun cured ham. I actually used turkey tasso. again, it's about layering flavor, but it's not an essential ingredient. you could substitute finely minced smoked sausage, keilbasa, or even hard salami instead).
4. 1 large onion. (I used red, but you could use yellow or white, or even the finely chopped white portion of two bunches of green onions. and if you hate onion, just leave it out.
5. Green bell pepper, finely chopped. to taste. I used one large and two tiny, tiny ones (the last of my crop). You could use anywhere from 0-2 depending on what you like. The important thing about the green bell pepper is that it gives a piquant bite to the sauce, so you can always subtitute similar things, like chopped green chilis or even chopped portocino peppers if that's what you have on hand.
6. two roasted sweet red peppers. mine were from a jar, but you can easily roast red peppers on your own. but they should be roasted for the best flavor.
7. Minced garlic. I used 4 large cloves, but i love garlic. adjust to your taste.
8. About 1 cup of red wine. I used a cabernet. just make sure that its a wine you would drink and that it's not sweet.
9. 4 smallish tomatoes, chopped. I had them on hand, but you could use a big can of chopped or diced tomatoes.
10. 1 large can of diced tomatoes.
11. 1 small can of tomato paste. Not actually crucial, but does give sauce that dark, rich, uber-tomato flavor. If you don't actually like that dark, rich, uber-tomato flavor, omit.
12, Seasoning. I used a mix of fresh, about a total cup of a mix of flat leaf and curly parsely, and a handful of chopped basil, along with Paul Prudhome's Italian Blend with an extra dash of dried oregano. you can use all fresh, all dried, or both. remember, though that dried herbs have a stronger flavor, and that fresh one can be delicate and should be added in later in the cooking process.
13. approximately one pound of ground chuck.
Step 1. Heat large skillet over medium heat. After headting for about five minutes, add olive oil and heat until oil is hot, but not smoking (about 3 min.) Add chopped raw bacon and cook until fat begins to render (about 3-5 minutes). Add chopped tasso.
While tasso is cooking, add about 1 tablespoon of the italian seasoning, so flavor can infuse the oil. This only works with dried herbs---fresh one will burn and turn bitter at this point.
Step 3. while tasso is cooking, chop the onion and add to pan, stirring regularly to prevent bacon from sticking.
Step 5, chop roasted red pepper and add to pan, continuing to stir occasionally
At the end of cooking, it should be a dark, rich red and quite thick. If it's too thick, you can always add a little liquid, either more wine, a splash of water, or even chicken stock, but always add only a little at a time---it should be a very thick sauce, closer to the consistency of tomato paste than tomato sauce.
Step 8. Boil some pasta, and enjoy. It's traditionally served with spaghetti, but any long strudy pasta like fettucine or linguine will work. It's too thick a sauce, however for wide flat pastas like bow tie.
Hope you enjoyed the recipe.
Submitted to Susan at Between Naps on the Porch for Tablescape Thursday.