Bolognese Sauce

I usually plan dinner parties weeks in advance – tinker with the menu, what wines to serve, what kind of tabletop I want to have etc until I settle on exactly the look, taste and feel I want.  However, there is something to be said for spontaneity and this sauce and the dinner party it spawned is a good reminder to me that I should trying to be less planned.  I have been working on my bolognese sauce for a couple of years, trying to meet my husband’s exacting standards.  I had been getting pretty close so when our good friend Dave was staying with us for the weekend I thought it would be a good way to try out the latest incarnation.  We were having a bunch of people over to watch the Patriots so the notoriously long cooing sauce could just sit and bubble away while the game was on.  Well smelling the sauce for a couple of hours drove my friend Baker to distraction – he offered up a deal.  Could he and his fiance Erikka stay and have dinner with us if he provided fresh pasta??  That was much too good for me to pass up and so suddenly a dinner for 3 because a party of 5 with a fresh pasta lesson to boot.  I was able to round up a nice salad to start and figured out some sort of dessert with what I had in my pantry.  Baker schooled us all on making pasta by hand (something that I am determined to conquer this year).

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It was one of the most fun nights in recent memory and the sauce was just perfect with the fresh pasta strands.  This sauce would actually be good on cardboard so if you don’t have fresh pasta just used boxed like I had planned to.  This makes a ton and freezes really well so you too can have an impromptu dinner party!

Bolognese Sauce (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:  fresh pasta in the house!
Special Equipment:  none

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced or grated
  • 5 ounces chicken livers, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon chopped thyme leaves
  • 1/2 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 pound ground lamb
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 6 ounce can of tomato paste
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • parmesan rind (optional)
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • parmesan for serving
  • pasta (fresh or dried) for serving – its also great as pizza sauce!

Add the olive oil to a large pot and heat over medium temperature.  Add the carrots, celery, onion and garlic to the pot and season with salt and pepper.

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Cook for about 8 to 10 minutes, until the vegetables are softened but not browned.  Add the chicken livers and the thyme and increase the heat to medium high.  Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until the livers no longer look raw.

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Add in the ground beef, pork and lamb and cook until no longer pink, breaking up the pieces with your utensil occasionally, about 5 to 7 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper, then add the tomato paste, pepper flakes and the parmesan rind (if you have one).  Cook the tomato paste for a couple of minutes until it is totally incorporated with the rest of the sauce.  Add the red wine, stir to combine, and then stir in the cream.

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Bring to a simmer and then turn down the heat to low and cook for 2 hours at a minimum, 3 to 4 hours if you have the time.  If at any time the sauce looks a little too dry you can add in a splash of wine or cream to loosen it up.   Remove the rind before serving. This sauce keeps well in the fridge for several days or in the freezer for several months.

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Bolognese Sauce

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Time: 3 to 5 hours depending
  • Print

Special Equipment:  none

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced or grated
  • 5 ounces chicken livers, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon chopped thyme leaves
  • 1/2 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 pound ground lamb
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 6 ounce can of tomato paste
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • parmesan rind (optional)
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • parmesan for serving
  • pasta (fresh or dried) for serving – its also great as pizza sauce!

Add the olive oil to a large pot and heat over medium temperature.  Add the carrots, celery, onion and garlic to the pot and season with salt and pepper.  Cook for about 8 to 10 minutes, until the vegetables are softened but not browned.  Add the chicken livers and the thyme and increase the heat to medium high.  Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until the livers no longer look raw.  Add in the ground beef, pork and lamb and cook until no longer pink, breaking up the pieces with your utensil occasionally, about 5 to 7 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper, then add the tomato paste, pepper flakes and the parmesan rind (if you have one).  Cook the tomato paste for a couple of minutes until it is totally incorporated with the rest of the sauce.  Add the red wine, stir to combine, and then stir in the cream.  Bring to a simmer and then turn down the heat to low and cook for 2 hours at a minimum, 3 to 4 hours if you have the time.  If at any time the sauce looks a little too dry you can add in a splash of wine or cream to loosen it up.   Remove the rind before serving. This sauce keeps well in the fridge for several days or in the freezer for several months.

A Warming Dinner Party

Long weekends are perfect for hosting dinner parties – you have multiple nights you can host and plenty of time to cook, set up and recover.  I used this menu recently on a cold night and it was perfect to shake off the winter blues.  Light some candles, stoke the fire and settle in for a nice night with friends.

Chile Oil-Marinated Goat Cheese

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Easy to make and needs to be made in advance is key when thinking about snacks before dinner.  This checks both boxes – I served the goat cheese with a baguette, some crackers and sliced soppresata along with a couple of bottles of bubbly to start the night off right.

Roasted Prime Rib with Thyme Marsala Sauce

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I had never made prime rib before and man is that hunk of meat intimidating!  Especially when you pay good money for something you really want it to turn out well.  First time was a total hit.  This Giada recipe is easy to follow and delivered a perfectly cooked prime rib with a delicious crust and the sweet and savory sauce that went alongside.  Even if you are a prime rib expert this is one recipe worth trying.

Mashed Potatoes

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Had to give my boy mashed potatoes alongside the prime rib.  Use your favorite recipe or if you want to take it up a notch go with my Over the Top Mashed Potatoes.

Balsamic Brussels Sprouts

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Posted earlier this month, these sprouts are a quick and easy side that can come together as you make the sauce for the prime rib.

Dark Chocolate Terrine

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Another new to me recipe from the real Contessa that is crazy good.  I could drink the orange sauce straight and be happy but the rich frozen mousse-like terrine is to die for.  Definitely don’t forget to sprinkle with sea salt before serving.  So just head to the grocery store tonight and you can easily host this fabulous dinner party for your friends this weekend.

Making Your Own Compound Butter

Possibly one of the easiest way to impress your friends and family is to “make your own butter.”  No I am not advocating churning butter by hand, just taking regular butter and making it more awesome by adding lots of flavor.  This is an easy way to perk up winter veggies, just toss with compound butter after you roast or steam squash or root veggies.  Here are some ideas to get you started but really everything goes better with butter to just use this to get started and let me know what you come up with.

Blue Cheese Butter:  As evidenced by the picture above blue cheese can actually turn your butter blue but its so delicious you won’t notice.  PERFECT for on top of a steak you can also use it on top of a backed potato.

Herb Compound Butter:  This is by far the most versatile version.  I use it to flavor and baste my cornish game hens in one of my most popular recipes.  Its great slathered on bread or added to steamed or roasted vegetables.  The best part is you can use whatever herbs you have handy and in whatever combination you would like.  Sage and rosemary go great together as do thyme and parsley but the sky is the limit.

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Roasted Garlic Butter:  Make a bunch of roasted garlic and combine some with butter and you have a great addition to mashed potatoes, pasta, or cream sauces.  This is great for shortcut garlic bread as well – just toast up crusty bread, spread on roasted garlic butter and season with salt and pepper.

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Cinnamon Butter:  Salt is really key here – combine salt, cinnamon and butter together and put it out for a pancake bar, to top an English muffin or with scones.

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Chipolte Butter:  Finely chop some chipoltes in adobo and add to butter to create an instant sauce for vegetables.  A nice light side for taco night the butter will melt right away when added to roasted asparagus or green beans.  Its also great on top of carne asada or corn on the cob.

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Balsamic Brussels Sprouts

In keeping with the clean eating theme of the week and the new year I thought I would post one of the easiest vegetable recipes I know that features one of the best veggies to help clean up your act.  Cruciferous vegetables, think broccoli, kale and our little friends the brussels sprouts, are considered “super vegetables” because they contain high amounts of Vitamins A and C, and help prevent cancer and cardiovascular disease.  I love them because they are usually inexpensive and also some of the only good looking things in the produce aisle once the weather turns cold.  I love roasted brussels sprouts (and also fried ones but that’s not really health conscious!) but those take time.  By shredding the sprouts you can saute them in minutes.  In the spring and summer I like to pair them with bright lemon like I do here but in the fall and winter something a bit deeper is called for.  For that I turn to balsamic glaze, essentially balsamic vinegar that has been cooked down to a rich syrup.  You can do that yourself but lots of places are selling glazes these days and that makes this even quicker to make (I like Wegmans version).  Want to speed up the process even more?  Skip the tedious task of slicing the sprouts thinly and let the slicer blade on your food processor do the work for you.  Look how fast!

If you don’t have a food processor you can thinly slice them with a sharp knife for on a mandolin several days in advance.  Just keep them in a baggie until you are ready to use them and this dish will come together in minutes.  This dish would be great alongside Veal SaltimboccaPistachio Crusted Pork Medallions or Cornish Game Hens with Herb Butter.

Balsamic Brussels Sprouts (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:  a healthy 2017
Special Equipment:  food processor fitted with a slicer blade (optional)

  • 1 pound brussels sprouts, sliced thinly
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1-2 tablespoons balsamic glaze

Heat your largest skillet to medium high and when it is hot add the olive oil.  Dump in the sprouts and season with salt and pepper.

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Let sit for a minute until some browning has occurred, then stir.  Stir again every couple of minutes for 5-7 minutes until the sprouts have wilted a bit and they are browned in areas.  Place on a serving platter and drizzle with the balsamic glaze.

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Balsamic Brussels Sprouts

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 7 minutes
  • Print

Special Equipment:  food processor fitted with a slicer blade (optional)

  • 1 pound brussels sprouts, sliced thinly
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1-2 tablespoons balsamic glaze

Heat your largest skillet to medium high and when it is hot add the olive oil.  Dump in the sprouts and season with salt and pepper.  Let sit for a minute until some browning has occurred, then stir.  Stir again every couple of minutes for 5-7 minutes until the sprouts have wilted a bit and they are browned in areas.  Place on a serving platter and drizzle with the balsamic glaze.

Healthy Grab and Go Breakfasts for 2017

It may be a bit cliche to start off the new year with healthy recipes but its cliche for a reason!  We all over indulge during the holidays and start the new year with the best of intentions.  The best thing about these two recipes is that they are healthy and delicious but also appropriate year round.  No matter the season everyone is always looking for quick breakfast ideas what will keep them full until lunch.  Here I have for you an easy green juice and a delish smoothie.

Green juices are an awesome way to start your day – it seriously makes you feel virtuous all day long.  They look terrible but I swear once you get past the first sip and your skepticism they are actually really yummy.  Problem is you need a juicer for this – if that isn’t in your budget or you don’t think you will use it much, move on to the smoothie.  I have to admit that juicers take up a lot of real estate and can be quite pricey.  I don’t love mine but I also don’t use it a ton so didn’t want to spend a lot either.  I have this one from Hamilton Beach and it works pretty well but if you want the best of the best I suggest you check out Sweet Home, a great site that thoroughly reviews products.  They provide a range of options depending on your budget and have never steered me wrong.  For the smoothie all you need is a blender.  I use my Cusinart Smart Stick immersion blender that even comes with its own smoothie cup.  I have had it for years and its great for smoothies or pureeing soups etc.  I use a frozen banana so it almost drinks like a milkshake.  Whenever one of our bananas becomes too ripe to eat I just break one up into chunks, put them in a baggie and throw them in the freezer.  Each of these drinks only take minutes to make and really constitute a meal.  Throw them in a cute cup and you are ready to tackle the work day.  Happy New Years!

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ACC’s Green Juice (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:  clean out your veggie drawer and your insides!
Special Equipment:  a juicer and a wire strainer (optional)

  • 5 ounces baby spinach
  • 1 inch of ginger, peeled
  • 1 apple, core and all, cut into 1/4ers
  • 1 lemon, cut in half
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 2 carrots

Juice all of the veggies and fruit into a container.  If you would like, strain through a fine wire strainer, then enjoy over ice.

ACC's Green Juice

  • Servings: 1
  • Time: 3 minutes
  • Print

Special Equipment:  a juicer and a wire strainer (optional)

  • 5 ounces baby spinach
  • 1 inch of ginger, peeled
  • 1 apple, core and all, cut into 1/4ers
  • 1 lemon, cut in half
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 2 carrots

Juice all of the veggies and fruit into a container.  If you would like, strain through a fine wire strainer, then enjoy over ice.

Almond Chia Banana Smoothie (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:  like a milkshake but healthier
Special Equipment:  blender

  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 non fat vanilla yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds

In a blender combine all the ingredients (I like to add the ingredients to the blender or smoothie bowl and let sit for a couple of minutes to soften the banana so it incorporates better but if you are in a rush you can skip that step.)

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Almond Chia Banana Smoothie

  • Servings: 1
  • Time: 1 minute
  • Print

Special Equipment:  blender

  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 non fat vanilla yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds

In a blender combine all the ingredients (I like to add the ingredients to the blender or smoothie bowl and let sit for a couple of minutes to soften the banana so it incorporates better but if you are in a rush you can skip that step.)

Happy Holidays from A Capitol Contessa!

I am going to take next week off to relax and hang with family and friends but I wanted to wish all of you a great holiday season.  If you are looking for some festive recipes to celebrate with here are a couple of ideas.  See you in 2017!!!  XOXO, ACC

Lamb Ragu

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Individual Apple Crisps

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Happy Hour

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Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Turkey Pot Pie Turnover

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Mulled Cider

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Goat Cheese and Radicchio Risotto

Whoa baby is it cold outside!  I think most of the country has been hit with some kind of cold snap over the last week – DC certainly has.  I may have grown up in Boston but I have lived down here long enough to become a complete wimp when it comes to the cold.  I just want to snuggle by our fireplace with a kitty and a nice glass of red.  This quick dinner is perfect for a cold night when you want some comfort food.  Sure you have to stand over the pan the whole time but think of it as a way to warm you up!  If you have forgotten, here are my risotto rules.  This version includes two of my favorite things – goat cheese and a bitter lettuce, namely radicchio.  The two really play off of each other nicely and if you add some chives at the end you can get red and green for the holidays!  Thankfully we haven’t had to shovel yet (eek!) but I think this would be a great way to defrost after doing so.

 

TITLE (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:
Special Equipment:  none

  • 6 cups of chicken or veggie stock
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 shallots, chopped
  • 1 cup aborio rice
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 5 ounces goat cheese
  • 1/2 head of radicchio, thinly sliced
  • chives

Add the stock to a small saucepan and warm over low heat.  In a high sided skillet or larger saucepan melt the butter over medium heat with the olive oil, then add the shallots and cook for 5 minutes.  Add the rice and stir it around until all the grains are coated in the butter.

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Reduce the heat to medium low.  Splash in the wine and use your spoon to stir the rice.  Once almost all of the wine has cooked off you can start ladeling in the stock.  Add 1 ladelful at a time, stirring near constantly.

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Once the rice starts looking dry add in another ladelful.  After about 25 minutes I start checking the doneness of the rice but usually it will take closer to 30 or 35 minutes to cook.

 

Once the rice is done (its tender with just a little bit of bite to it) stir in the goat cheese and radicchio and cook for another minute or two more, allowing the radicchio to wilt and the goat cheese to melt in.  Sprinkle with chives and season with salt and pepper.

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Goat Cheese and Radicchio Risotto

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 40 minutes
  • Print

Special Equipment:  none

  • 6 cups of chicken or veggie stock
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 shallots, chopped
  • 1 cup aborio rice
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 5 ounces goat cheese
  • 1/2 head of radicchio, thinly sliced
  • chives

Add the stock to a small saucepan and warm over low heat.  In a high sided skillet or larger saucepan melt the butter over medium heat with the olive oil, then add the shallots and cook for 5 minutes.  Add the rice and stir it around until all the grains are coated in the butter.  Reduce the heat to medium low.  Splash in the wine and use your spoon to stir the rice.  Once almost all of the wine has cooked off you can start ladeling in the stock.  Add 1 ladelful at a time, stirring near constantly.  Once the rice starts looking dry add in another ladelful.  After about 25 minutes I start checking the doneness of the rice but usually it will take closer to 30 or 35 minutes to cook.  Once the rice is done (its tender with just a little bit of bite to it) stir in the goat cheese and radicchio and cook for another minute or two more, allowing the radicchio to wilt and the goat cheese to melt in.  Sprinkle with chives and season with salt and pepper.

 

 

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