Tuesday, February 7, 2012
What he eats
I still remember the day Roman turned six months old and we introduced solid foods. It seemed like a major event. I carefully mashed up a banana, sat him in his high chair and with a video camera rolling behind me, offered him a spoonful. He swiftly rejected it. Non-event. I tried again over the next few weeks with other mashed fruits and vegetables to no avail.
At first I felt distressed that he did not take to food immediately. Wouldn't he inherit our love of gastronomy? I knew he would come to the table in his own time, and when he did, a few months later, it was for meat sauce. I hesitate to call this a bolognese at the risk of offending the purists, but it's a close cousin. I've made this meat sauce at least twice a month for the last year and a half. It's adored by Roman and his older cousins who call it their all-time favorite pasta sauce.
I hope I'm helping Roman form a healthy relationship with food. Learning to eat, to taste, to savor -- these are all building blocks in his repertoire of life skills. I want him to smell the onions simmering in olive oil and get excited about what might come out of that pot. That's what I remember most about Saturday mornings as a kid. It's not just food. It's an investment in the next generation of foodies.
Roman's Favorite Meat Sauce
We love this with any shape of pasta, over polenta or even on a whole wheat bun like a sloppy joe. It freezes well, so I freeze small portions that can be defrosted overnight in the refrigerator. Feel free to replace some of the water with red wine. What makes this meat sauce so good is actually the vegetables. The finely chopped carrot, celery, onion and garlic provide a wonderful backdrop of flavor. I have tried it with every meat combination possible: beef, pork, and veal, beef alone, even turkey (although that was not my favorite). You can also add some diced pancetta or bacon before you brown the ground meat. Top with freshly grated parmesan cheese if you like.
2 stalks of celery
2 cloves of garlic
1 1/2 pounds (700 grams) ground meat (if you wish, use a combination of beef, pork and veal.)
1 28 ounce (800 grams) can of stewed, pureed tomatoes
2 cups water (500 ml)
salt to taste
Begin by cutting the vegetables into chunks and chopping them into very fine pieces in a food processor. In a large pot or dutch oven, heat some olive oil (you don't need a lot). Sauté the chopped vegetables with a little salt for about five minutes. Push all the vegetables to one side of the pot and add your ground beef. Break it up with a wooden spoon as it browns. Add the tomatoes, then refill the can with water and add this to the pot. Now gently simmer the sauce for 1 1/2 to 2 hours until most of the liquid is absorbed.