Friday, January 11, 2013

Madelyn's "Spaghetti Genovese" and Ciabatta

December 23, 2012
  • Madelyn's "Spaghetti Genovese"
  • Garden Salad
  • Ciabatta
  • Gabbiano 2009 Chianti Classico

It's hard to believe that it's been thirty years since we started making this spaghetti sauce. The recipe came from a co-worker of Diane's when she was working at the since defunct House of Fabrics store in the also defunct Sunnyvale Town Center Mall. This is a thick, rich, hearty sauce, full of meat, and it makes a great cold-weather meal. The ingredients are all easily obtained at the supermarket. I haven't made this sauce in several years and it was easier to make than what I remember.  With up to three pounds of meat the recipe can be used to feed a crowd (I fed twenty people at a family reunion) or frozen for later use.

The recipe specifies quantity ranges for each of the three meats which you can mix and match to suit your taste or based on what is available at the supermarket. Much of the flavor of the sauce comes from the Italian sausage. I always choose a mild or sweet sausage but for a spicy version you can use hot Italian sausage, too. I don't shy away from fattier ground meats as the fats contribute to the flavor. For this batch I used 1 pound 85% lean ground pork, 1.4 pounds 80% lean ground beef, and 0.67 pounds (two) pork mild Italian sausage. The most difficult part of the sauce's preparation can be in cleaning up. The sauce is boiled for ten minutes, with constant stirring, and it bubbles and bloops and splatters all over the stove. I wear an old oven mitt to protect my hand while stirring and I carefully cover the area around the pot with paper towels to ease the clean up. I use a stock pot, also, to help minimize the mess as its tall sides keep most of the sauce inside the pot. But after this step the preparation is hands off for the rest of the day as the sauce simmers. It's nice to have the major component of your dinner finished by 9 AM.

To accompany the spaghetti I made ciabatta bread. I've been wanting to make ciabatta for some time and with the success recently of the brioche I made I was encouraged to try another new bread recipe. The bread is made with a biga.  Biga sounds like the name of a Pok√©mon character but its  a mixture of yeast, flour, and water that is prepared the night before and allowed to ferment at room temperature to develop flavor for the bread.  It's similar in some ways to a sourdough starter. The wet dough is handled almost entirely in the stand mixer. The final loaves (ciabatta is literally "slipper" in Italian, though I don't think the loaves look like comfortable footwear) are on the smallish side, three of us comfortably finished off a loaf at one sitting. The bread is crusty, though less so than the almost no-knead bread that is baked in a dutch oven. It has an open crumb and is delicious. We ate it warm from the oven, letting it cool long enough to set up, and it was very good with the spaghetti.

Our side salad included butter lettuce, tomato, cucumber, celery, carrot, parsley,  and almond/cranberry accents. I often go by the old saying, "when you eat Italian, drink Italian", and so served a hearty Italian Chianti to accompany the bread and hearty sauce.

We've lost touch with Madelyn, who used to babysit for our son way back when, but we still enjoy her recipe. She'd be about 97 years old now and as far as I can tell from some googling she's still living up in Sunnyvale. It's nice to be reminded of her whenever we make this recipe.

Madelyn's Spaghetti Genovese from a family recipe
Ciabatta from Cook's Illustrated

The pork loin pot roast, which we weren't too crazy about to begin with, was served in several ways as a leftover: reheated pork, pork fried rice, and pork hash. It didn't make for a good leftover without transforming it some how and even then it was only acceptable.

The brioche, however, not only kept well but we found it was good for sandwiches and as a dinner side dish. It didn't make very good toast but we think it could make good french toast, though we didn't try this ourselves.

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