The other night I watched Alton Brown make up some delicious Meat Sauce with Spaghetti. I thought I would give it a try myself. This recipe takes about 5 hours to make and the meat sauce is the star of the show here. It requires various meats, a large cast iron Dutch oven, and some other goodies. I’ll go through my experience below.
I had to make a trip to A.J.’s fine foods for this recipe; I needed some 6 ounces of bacon, fresh ground pork and sirloin, coarsely chopped. I also needed some whole cloves and a whole star anise. The recipe calls to put the cloves and star anise in a spice bag and cook it with the meat sauce. I couldn’t find a spice bag so I substituted a wrap used for steaming shell fish. A.J’s selection of meat is pretty good and they will cut it right there for you. The tough part was the Porcini mushrooms, although I knew A.J.’s would have them. Fresh Porcini mushrooms cost about $69.00 per pound; I used 1 ounce of dried Porcini mushrooms, which was around $6.00. The rest of the ingredients I purchased at Fry’s Supermarket.
I don’t have an 8 quart cast iron Dutch oven that Alton called for, but I have a cast iron 5 quart version so I went with that. The first step is to very slowly render bacon fat by cooking it over low heat in the Dutch over for 30–40 minutes or so. The bacon itself does not get used in the recipe, just the fat. While the bacon was cooking I chopped up the onions, celery, and garlic. The bacon took right around 40 minutes to cook in the Dutch oven over low heat. I removed the bacon and placed the onions, 2 teaspoons of kosher salt, and ground black pepper in the Dutch oven. I also placed my small pouch with star anise and cloves in the Dutch oven. Alton said it would take 45–60 minutes for the onions to cook and caramelize but it took about an hour and 15 minutes. Next, I added the celery and the minced garlic.
I let the celery and garlic cook with the onions for about 30 minutes; you could smell it outside the house. Meanwhile, I prepared a large pan to brown the ground beef and pork. About 1 tablespoon of olive oil and I browned the meat for about 5 minutes. After the meat was browned, I deglazed the pan with a half cup of chardonnay.
I removed the spice bag from the onion, celery, and garlic mix, placed the meat, the remaining chardonnay and bits of meat, condensed milk, beef broth, and porcini mushrooms into the Dutch oven. Now comes the waiting game. This has to cook for 3 hours. Right now, it’s essentially a stew, and the reason it has to cook for 3 hours is to break down the connective tissues in the meat. So far so good, it looks like Alton’s.
After an hour and a half it’s time to get back to work. I added my garlic, diced tomatoes, oregano, marjoram, basil into the saucepan and cooked it up until most of the liquid evaporated. This took about 30 minutes. After the liquid evaporated I added ketchup (yes, ketchup), worchestershire, sherry vinegar, and tomato paste. I let this simmer for another 30 minutes then added a bit of olive oil and fried it up for 3 minutes. I then combined the the fried tomato paste portion with the meaty stew portion. I let it simmer while I prepared the pasta.
Overall, it wasn’t bad. It was a very robust and meaty sauce. I think it was a bit too meaty. The flavor of the meat and the porcini mushrooms overpowered the tomato portion of the sauce. I ended up putting another 2 ounces of tomato paste in the sauce beyond what the recipe called for. It was a lot of work though for a mediocre result. I probably wouldn’t put this on my list as a repeat recipe.