Who’s that knocking at the door?
This past Sunday I get a call at about 11am from the emergency service that my 94-year-old mother is subscribed to. “Your mother fell and an ambulance has been dispatched. Your sister Annette and brother Richard have been called and Richard is on his way to your mother now.” That’s a call we all knew we would get, but you are never prepared for something like that. I knew my brother Richard was 10 minutes away from my mom, so I waited a while before I called him to find out how serious it was. About a half hour later I heard the news, and it wasn’t good. “Mom is in the emergency room, she broke her hip, had heart failure and has water in her lungs”, my brother said. It sounded like the end would be near. A broken hip for any elderly person is a death knell. I told my brother I would head to Long Island and see him as soon as I can.
After fighting weekend beach traffic for 2 hours, I’m about 10 minutes away from the hospital and I called my brother. “Pete, now they are telling me she didn’t break her hip”, my brother said. “She’s still in ICU and they are trying to clear the water from her lungs and treat the pneumonia. At least there is some good news!” I was glad to hear that, and also glad I was about to see her, because I’m sure in her state nothing is more important than being together with family.
I get to my mother’s room and my sister in law Lillian is there. I greet her and get the run down as to what is happening. They have her hooked up to oxygen with a full face mask and are giving her antibiotics intravenously. She has been on morphine pain killers most of the day so she was drifting in and out of sleep. As I’m sitting at the foot of her bed, with my son Joseph by her side, she begins to open her eyes and slowly come out of her sleep state. I was holding her hand and called out to her, “Mom!, it’s me Peter! How are you feeling?” She started to open her eyes and was responding to my voice. I saw that her eyes began focusing in on me sitting at the foot of her bed. As her frail, shaky hand moved up to her oxygen face mask she moved it below her chin so she could talk. She spoke what was probably her first words of the day after her accident.
“Oh my God!” my mother exclaimed, “You’re here?!!??!! I must be dying!”
Even what could have been on my mother’s death-bed, she was able to yield her trusty sword of guilt that she so skillfully honed over the years. “Yea Mom, I thought you were dying, that’s why I’m here!” I said. She responded with the words I knew she had in her, “I’m not ready to die!”
I’m sure Italian mothers are not the only parents that lead a needy and all-consuming life with their children. There is plenty of guilt to go around in other ethnic groups. But I did what any good son would do when his mother was in need…be by her side. And I was glad to hear the words, “I’m not ready to die”. I’ll keep her as long as our Good Lord is willing to let us have her.
My mother or grandmother never made Bolognese Sauce. At least they didn’t call it that. My mother made a meat sauce that was similar to Bolognese but not quite the same. Bolognese sauce originated from the town of Bologna, Italy. Bologna is in the north. Quite a way from Sicily.
This Bolognese sauce is intense with flavor. The secret is cooking out most of the moisture in the vegetable and browning the meat to the point of carmelization before adding the tomato sauce.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1 large onion, finely and evenly diced
- 4 carrots finely and evenly diced
- 3 stalks celery, finely and evenly diced
- 4 cloves garlic, finely diced
- 4 1/2 ounces of diced pancetta
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 pounds of ground meat (blend of veal, pork and beef)
- 1 cup of dry white wine
- 2 cups of whole milk
- 1 28-ounce can whole San Marzano tomatoes, crushed with liquid
- 1 cup of beef stock or broth
- 1 pound of Tagliatelle Nests or any flat and wide macaroni
- Plenty of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
It’s important that the onions, celery and carrots are all finely and evenly diced. That way they cook more uniform, adding a better texture to the sauce. You don’t want large chunks of these veggies sticking out.
Place a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat and melt the butter in the oil. Add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic with a good pinch of salt and sauté for 5 minutes, stirring often.
Add the diced pancetta and cook for another 10 minutes, until vegetables are softened and pancetta is golden.
Turn the heat up high and add to the vegetables half of the chopped meat. Brown the meat by breaking up the large chunks with your spoon. Once the first half is browned add the remainder of the meat and brown at least 15 minutes over high heat. Stirring occasionally.
You want the meat to carmelize. Be careful not to burn the meat, but carmelize it so that some of the meat even gets crispy.
Deglaze the pot with the white wine, stirring up the little brown pieces that stick to the bottom of the pot. Before all the wine evaporates and the meat starts sticking to the pot again, add the tomatoes, milk and beef stock.
Stir well and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to the lowest setting you have and simmer half covered for at least 2 1/2 hours. Make sure to stir the sauce from time to time and especially more often at the end of the cooking cycle to keep from burning.
The sauce should be thick and glossy with oil with most of the moisture and liquid evaporated.
Cook your pasta and place back in the pot and mix in a couple of ladles of the sauce.
Serve immediately with additional sauce on top with plenty of grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.