Ragù di Fegato di Pollo (Meat Sauce Bolognese-style with Chicken Livers)

Not that anyone is asking me these sort of things. Nor, in fact, is it a question that one might ask. But if pressed to name my favorite article from a glossy food mag this year, I would point them to the April 2008 issue of Saveur, with the beautiful picture of Bolognese on the cover, telling the world that the cover story is about the deep and wonderful ecstasy that is Bologna’s favorite meat sauce. The primary reason I enjoyed the article so much is that it gave six different recipes for Bolognese, essentially repeating my mantra about how Italian food is about improvisation (which itself provides stark contrast to traditional French cuisine, which is seemingly about precision).

When I decided to write about pasta, I vowed to use on of these recipes. In the end I chose the one below, and noted that this would have to be a weekend dish, as the time needed to make it work would end up being around three hours.

But which pasta to use? Here in America the spaghetti noodle seems to win out time after time, but I knew that this would not be appropriate. Well, not appropriate for me. I’ve done spaghetti noodles to death.

My eventual choice was the pappardelle. These are the wide, flat noodles, about three times the width of a fettuccini. According to wikipedia, pappardelle is used traditionally used in savory meat dishes. Additionally, it has the added benefit from being popular in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, in which Bologna (home of the Bolognese) happens to be the capital. It was the perfect fit.

On the evolutionary timeline for pasta, pappardelle would likely be a relatively old one. A person would only need to cut a pasta sheet into several near-uniform widths to get pappardelle.

  • 4 cups beef broth
  • 2 Tbsp. Tomato Paste
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 1/8 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. Unsalted Butter
  • 2 oz. pancetta, finely chopped
  • 2 medium-sized carrots, finely chopped
  • 2 stalks of celery, finely chopped
  • 1 medium sized yellow onion, diced
  • 3/4 lb ground veal
  • 1/4 lb ground pork, the fattier the better
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1/8 tsp. nutmeg
  • 2 chicken livers

In a small sauce pan that has been placed over medium/medium low heat, bring the broth to a simmer. Place the tomato paste into a small bowl and add one cup of the heated broth. Whisk together, ensuring the paste has been dissolved, and then set the tomato-beef broth aside, off of the heat. Keep the remaining beef broth at a simmer (185 degrees F).

In a separate sauce pan, bring the milk to a simmer. Add the cloves and the cinnamon, remove from heat, and allow the spices to steep in the milk for at least one hour.

While steeping the milk, take a stock pot or Dutch oven and place it over medium heat. Melt the butter into the olive oil. Add the pancetta, stirring occasionally, allowing the pancetta to render its fat (between 6-10 minutes). Add the carrots, celery, and onions, carmelizing the onions to a light brown color, about 45 minutes.

Stir in the veal and pork, browning the meat and breaking apart any clumps. Allow to cook for 15 minutes before salting and peppering to taste. Raise the burner to medium high, and pour in the white wine. Allow the alcohol to evaporate, about seven minutes. Lower the heat to medium/Medium-low and add the nutmeg. Pour in the tomato infused broth and stir in until fully absorbed (much like adding water to risotto, for those of you rice makers out there). This should take about five minutes. Add 1/2 cup of the broth, and repeat the stirring/absorption routine. Continue this add-1/2-cup-broth-stir-absorb routine until all the broth has been used.

Add the chicken livers to the sauce, and allow them to cook for 8 minutes. Remove from the dish and place in a bowl with a tablespoon of milk. Mash with a fork until a paste is formed. Return to the sauce along with the remaining milk. Allow to simmer for another 15 minutes or so before using on pasta.

(Makes 4 cups)