Ah, pasta. I cannot think of one dish that satisfies so many of my random cravings. This dish, with it's deceptively flavorful and silky sauce, holds rank near the top of all of my pasta dishes.
Amanda Hesser writes about a "Rigatoni with White Bolognese" she once had, and subsequently tried to recreate, in her book, "Cooking for Mr. Latte". It's a darling book with several good recipes, and I recommend you pick it up and try a few on for size. However, the recipe I eventually have settled on (after several tries), differs enough from the original that I feel I must only give her thanks for inspiring me. And so, thank you Ms. Hesser.
This dish can seem time consuming--after all, watching the liquids reduce over and over again not only becomes tiresome, it begins to inspire wrath from hungry dinner guests ( i.e., my husband). It is worth the wait. Reducing the wine, then stock, concentrates the flavors and produces a pasta so divine, I admit to patting myself on the back. It's that good.
Rigatoni alla Bolognese Bianco
serves 2, with leftovers
3 medium carrots, peeled and finely chopped*
2 stalk celery, finely chopped*
1 yellow onion, finely chopped*
freshly ground pepper
1 lb. mild Italian sausage, removed from casings and crumbled
.5 lb. ground beef (or try ground turkey)
1 c. dry white wine
2 c. beef stock (chicken stock works, too)
8 oz. cremini (or Baby Bella) mushrooms, chopped
.3 c. half & half
1 lb. rigatoni
.5 c. Italiam flat leaf parsely
.5 c. grated parmesan cheese, divided
*It is important to get a fine dice on these vegetables, otherwise they will not incorporate with the sauce and won't stick to your pasta.
Pour a very thin coat of olive oil over the bottom of a large saute pan and place over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, add the onions, carrots, and celery and saute, stirring often, until shiny and crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper while cooking. Add the sausage to the pan, breaking apart the crumbles, and brown well.
Pour in the wine and keep at a brisk simmer until the wine has all but evaporated. Pour in 1.5 c. of the beef stock and continue to simmer, uncovered, until stock is nearly gone (about 12-14 minutes). Stir occaisionally. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
Stir in the chopped mushrooms and as much of the remaining beef stock as is necessary to cover the meat halfway (I almost always use the entire .5 cup remaining). Continue simmering another 10 minutes, reducing heat if the liquid is cooking off too quickly. Your sauce should be loose, but not soupy, and highly seasoned. Pour over the Half & Half and fold to mix, then turn off heat and cover.
When the pasta water is at a full boil, add rigatoni and cook until al dente. When the pasta is almost done, scoop out a half cup of the cooking water and reserve for leftovers. Drain the pasta and place it back in the pot. Pour the sauce on top, and add the parsely and most of the grated cheese (reserve some for garnish). Fold in the sauce with a wooden spoon--it should not be dry, rather a silky sauce should coat the pasta evenly. Add a little more stock or wine if the sauce is too thick. Serve hot, with grated parmesan on top. Add reserved pasta water to any leftovers to keep them moist for the next day. Enjoy!