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Lucretia B's International Cookbook Lucretia B's Amazing International Cookbook

Spaghetti con Ragù alla Bolognese

Special Version for Computer Programmers

Foreword

We are now going to make *real* Spaghetti alla Bolognese that you cannot buy in a shop. (Please note: Bolognese is the correct Italian spelling, but I noticed in English speaking countries it's usually spelt Bolognaise). Very few cooks outside Italy know how to do this. It's thought to be difficult, but The Boss and Lucretia have made it simple for you.
 
We have deliberately chosen a difficult recipe, for three main reasons:

  1. You will impress even your most sophisticated audience!
  2. When tasks are explained precisely, any job is simple.
  3. After succeeding with a difficult recipe, you will be able to experiment with other simpler recipes from the Cookbook without panicking.

General notes:

  1. The quantities we indicate are for two servings (i.e., two average eaters), but you can easily adjust the proportions to obtain any other amount. For instance, by doubling the quantities you will get 4 servings; by dividing by 2, you will get the spare additional serving.
  2. The size of the containers, as indicated in the following "Tools" section, shouldn't change for up to 4 servings. If you need to cook larger quantities (say, because you want to cook in bulk and freeze the sauce for several meals), please choose larger containers after considering the total volume of all the ingredients!
  3. Our Step by Step instructions cover all you need to do to serve your hosts, setting the table included. If you have already cooked before, you will find they're terribly pedantic, but the purpose of this tutorial is to give beginners the most complete information about how to entertain their guests at the table.

And now, if you're ready to go, you can proceed to the step by step instructions.

Prerequisites

** TOOLS **

** INGREDIENTS **

** SETTING THE table **

** TIMES **

** SKILLS **

Procedure

Steps | Description

  1. In the beginning we make the sauce.
  2. If you are going to use frozen meat, remember it has to thaw before you can use it.
  3. Leave butter, meat and Parmesan cheese in the fridge (i.e., the refrigerator).
  4. Assemble all the other ingredients on the kitchen table, leaving the packed ingredients, such as oil, wine and canned tomatoes, in their packagings.
  5. Collect the following tools: cutting board, knife, colander, measuring tools, small pan with lid and wooden spoon.
  6. Place the vegetables (carrot, celery, onion, garlic and optional fresh sage and/or rosemary) in your clean kitchen sink.
  7. Scrape the carrot with the knife, keeping the carrot under cold running water.
  8. Peel the onion by cutting off the top and the bottom, then stripping away all the brownish "skin".
  9. Peel the garlic clove by squeezing and rubbing it between your fingers, then cutting off the top and the bottom and stripping away the white (or reddish) "skin".
  10. Cut the top of the celery stalk off (i.e. where it starts separating into "branches" with leaves).
  11. Clean the vegetables (carrot, onion, garlic and celery) by washing and rubbing them under cold running water.
  12. If you're using fresh sage and rosemary, wash them under cold running water in the sink.
  13. Keep all these clean vegetables together by putting them in the colander.
  14. Collect the waste materials (i.e. onion and garlic skins, celery top) from the sink and throw them away.
  15. Place the carrot on the cutting board.
  16. Cut the carrot into 4 strips, by cutting it in half along its longest side and then cutting each of these two pieces the same way again.
  17. Chop these 4 carrot strips into small pieces, about the size of a green pea.
  18. Place these carrot pieces in the small pan.
  19. Place the celery stalk on the cutting board.
  20. Cut the celery up in a similar way to the carrot.
  21. Place these celery pieces in the small pan with the carrots.
  22. Add 1 tablespoon (tb) of oil into the small pan with the celery and the carrots.
  23. Take the garlic clove out of the colander and put it into the same small pan. You can leave the garlic whole, or you can finely slice it directly into the pan.
  24. If you are using fresh sage and/or rosemary,
    1. Strip some (i.e., approx 20) of the rosemary's green leaves away and place these leaves on the cutting board.
    2. Chop up the leaves into 2 or 3 pieces.
    3. Place the sage leaves on the cutting board and cut these too into 2 or 3 pieces.
    4. Add these sage and/or rosemary pieces to the small pan with carrots, celery and garlic.
    5. Put away the rest of the rosemary's sprig.
  25. If you're using dried sage and/or rosemary, just add them to the other vegetables in the pan (carrots, celery, garlic).
  26. Stir all the vegetables in the pan with the wooden spoon until they're fairly evenly distributed.
  27. Cover the small pan with its lid and place it on the smallest hot plate over the stove top.
  28. Turn the hot plate on. It has to be on fairly low heat, which means the lowest setting for a gas stove and the setting more or less one third of the way for an electric stove.
  29. Place the onion on the cutting board, on one of its cut sides.
  30. Vertically cut the onion in two.
  31. Place these two halves face down on the cutting board.
  32. Vertically slice each half onion into thin slices (approx 1/16 inch, or 1 to 2mm, thick).
  33. If by this time you find yourself weeping, don't worry. It's only the onion's side effect.
  34. Place the sliced onion in the small pan, where the other ingredients are simmering.
  35. Mix well, by stirring the ingredients 3-5 times with the wooden spoon.
  36. Replace the lid and let the vegetables simmer over the lowest possible heat until they're very tender. It takes 45 to 60 minutes, according to the size of the pan and other factors. (For more information, contact your system's administrator. In order to appreciate the joke, you might need to click the "Previous" quote button until you get to the 12th or the 20th of January.)
    You don't have to stay there and watch the pan all the time, but it's a good idea to stir occasionally (especially if you smell something wrong).
    • If you're using an electric stove, you can turn the setting down to the lowest position (usually marked 1 or Low). You probably need to check the contents of the pan only a couple of times (i.e., every 20 minutes).
    • If you're using a gas stove, keep in mind that it requires some closer attention. Even when set to the lowest possible position, low heat from a gas stove is usually warmer than low heat from an electric stove, which means your pan needs to be checked more frequently.
  37. If during one of your periodical checks you notice that the vegetables tend to stick to the pan or get brownish, add some cold water (1 or 2 tb).
  38. Always replace the lid after every check.
  39. In the meantime, you can wash up the utensils you've used so far (except the wooden spoon, which you are presumably using to stir the sauce). Some of them are needed again later.
  40. When the vegetables in the pan are ready, i.e. very tender and reduced in volume to approx 1/3 of their original size, take the minced meat out of the fridge.
  41. Remove the lid from the small pan on the stove top and add the meat.
  42. Turn the stove to medium heat, and stir the meat with the wooden spoon until it's separated into small pieces and all the moist has evaporated. It takes 10 to 20 minutes approx.
  43. When all the moist from the meat has evaporated and it starts frying, pour 4 tb of red wine in, and stir thoroughly.
  44. Leave the sauce over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the wine has evaporated, too.
  45. Open the can of tomatoes.
  46. When all the wine has evaporated, pour the tomatoes in the pan.
  47. Add salt, sugar and pepper (1 pinch each) and stir to mix all the ingredients evenly.
  48. Cover the pan with its lid and turn the stove to the lowest heat again.
  49. The sauce has now to simmer gently for 3 hours, so you can go and read a book or do something else.
  50. However, remember to check periodically the status of your sauce: if you notice it tends to stick to the pan, you can add some cold water, one tablespoon at a time, and stir it more often.
  51. Always replace the lid after every check.
  52. 30 minutes before the sauce is ready (i.e. after 2 1/2 hours from the moment when you added tomatoes), it's time to start cooking spaghetti.
  53. Collect the following: bigger pan with lid, fork, colander, bowl, rock salt, spaghetti, kitchen cloth.
  54. Fill the bigger pan to 3/4 with cold water.
  55. Cover with lid and place it on one of the larger hot plates of the stove top, set to high heat.
  56. Now it's a good time to set the table for your guest(s):
    1. Spread the tablecloth on the table.
    2. Arrange the plates.
    3. Place spaghetti plates on top of each plate.
    4. Place a fork on left of each set of plates; knife and spoon on right. Knife has to be closer to the plate, with blade facing the plate.
    5. Place the wine glass just above the fork. The water glass goes on right of the wine glass.
    6. Place the napkin, neatly folded, on left of the fork.
    7. Fold the spare napkin into a triangular shape and tie it to the wine bottle.
    8. In the middle of the table, dispose gracefully water and wine bottles, dispensers and the basket with your bread.
    9. Place flowers and candles in a suitable position, i.e. so that none of your guests runs the risk of spilling the flowers vase or burning his/her wrists on the candles.
    10. Now you can safely go back to your sauce and spaghetti.
  57. Measure 2 servings of spaghetti, i.e. 5 oz or 150 gr. If you don't have a scale, you can open a new 1 lb (or 500 gr) packet and measure approx. one third of its contents.
  58. When the water starts boiling (you'll notice the pan will start rumbling), remove the lid and pour in the rock salt (1 tb).
  59. Set the lid aside. You won't need it again.
  60. Wait until the water resumes boiling, then place the spaghetti in vertically.
  61. Push the spaghetti down until they are covered with water. Proceed slowly, as you can push them down without breaking as they start getting softer.
  62. With the fork, move the spaghetti around trying to separate them from each other. Use the fork as if it was a comb (spaghetti being someone's hair).
  63. Keep stirring the spaghetti until the water starts boiling again.
  64. Look at your watch. This is the moment to start counting the cooking time for spaghetti, which is usually printed on the packet. Cooking times are generally given with two values: minimum and maximum. According to your taste, you decide whether you want them softer (longer cooking time) or harder (shorter cooking time). If there are no cooking instructions/times, here's what you need to do:
    • With the fork, lift one piece of spaghetti after 5 minutes. If it looks stiff, let your spaghetti cook for another couple of minutes before repeating the test.
    • If it bends easily, try it under your teeth: if it cracks, let your spaghetti cook for another couple of minutes before repeating the test.
    • Spaghetti are cooked when they are soft enough not to crack, or taste "raw", under your teeth.
  65. Turn the stove to medium heat.
  66. Take butter and Parmesan cheese out of the fridge.
  67. Make sure the sink is empty and clean.
  68. Place the bowl in the sink and then the colander in the bowl.
  69. Don't forget to check the sauce: you don't want it to burn NOW, do you?
  70. Keep an eye on your watch and make sure not to overcook the spaghetti.
  71. When the spaghetti are cooked, turn both hotplates off.
  72. Pour the spaghetti in the colander.
  73. Lift the colander out of the bowl and put it on the side of the sink.
  74. While the colander is draining, empty the bowl in the sink.
  75. Quickly wipe the bowl with the kitchen cloth.
  76. Pour the spaghetti back in the bowl.
  77. Drop 1 tb of butter into the spaghetti (it will melt quickly).
  78. Add the sauce to the spaghetti and toss.
  79. Add Parmesan cheese and mix well.
  80. Serve immediately.
  81. Your guests can add some extra Parmesan cheese on their spaghetti, from the dispenser you placed on the table.

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Last updated 28 jun 2011

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