It’s sandwich season again, and I love a great tuna sandwich. What I don’t love though is a lot of mayo, so here is my simple mayo-free tuna salad that is loaded with Italian flavors:
First of all, use a solid tuna packed in oil and not water. Tuna packed in water is tasteless. I know. I know. Tuna in oil is higher in fat than it is in water, but we’re not using any mayo, and we will be draining most of the oil anyway. Though it costs a bit more, I use an Italian tuna packed in extra virgin olive oil.
Season with black pepper, but no salt. The capers should provide enough saltiness.
Don’t use just any olive oil. For some deep flavor, break out your finest extra virgin olive oil.
Because this tuna salad is less “wet” than a mayo-heavy version, it holds up great on a crusty, rustic bread. Try adding some ripe tomato slices, arugula, and italian olives.
2 5-oz. cans of solid light or white tuna packed in oil, drained
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp. Italian flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
2 tbsp. capers
2 tbsp. high quality extra virgin olive oil
Juice from 1/2 lemon
Black pepper, to taste
Put all ingredients in a large bowl and mix together with a fork while breaking up the tuna.
This is probably the recipe that I am most proud of. I spent a little time in Bologna this year where I learned some things that make this a truly authentic ragù Bolognese.
Making a Bolognese is different from making other sauces in that there is usually not a lot of liquid in the pot while cooking. Liquid is added in small amounts, then reduced, then repeated. If too much liquid is added at one time, then you are just boiling the meat and destroying its flavors.
Pork is the meat of choice in Bologna. While there, I spoke with some people that use only pork in their ragù. I like the flavor of beef, so I use a 50/50 ratio of pork to beef. Pancetta is common in many recipes I’ve seen and adds some nice flavor, but not necessary if cooking on a budget.
Really, a cup of milk, you ask? Yes. I was just as surprised as you are. The milk quickly reduces out, but it adds a richness and velvety texture to your ragù. Be sure that the milk is added just before the tomato paste.
I had only ever used a hearty red wine when making this recipe before my friend, Alessandro, turned me on to using a dry white wine. It really tastes great when using pancetta. I find myself alternating between the two…and yes, use the whole bottle (minus a hearty swig for yourself, of course).
Finally, do yourself a favor and serve the ragù with fresh pasta rather than dry. Giovanni Rana is a brand that makes a great tagliatelle, the traditional pasta for Bolognese. After boiling and draining the pasta, return the pasta and some of the ragù to the pot. Let them cook together on low heat for a couple of minutes.
…and of course, top with plenty of Parmigiano Reggiano.
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
3 ribs celery, coarsely chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 ½ lb. ground beef
1 ½ lb. ground pork
¼ lb. pancetta, ground or finely diced (optional)
1 cup whole milk
2 cups tomato paste
1 bottle of dry white or hearty red wine
3 bay leaves
Kosher or sea salt
Puree the chopped onion, carrots, celery, and garlic in a food processor. In a large pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add pureed vegetables and season generously with salt. Stirring frequently, cook vegetables until they are brown and almost all of the water has evaporated (about 20 minutes).
If using pancetta, add to vegetables and cook until brown (about 4 minutes). Add beef and pork, and season with salt. Cook until brown (about 15 to 20 minutes). Either drain mixture of fat or remove as much as you can with a spoon or ladle.
Add milk and stir until evaporated. Add tomato paste and let brown for about 3 minutes. Add wine and reduce to about half (about 5 minutes). Add water to pot until it levels just above the meat (about 2 cups). Add bay leaves. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to simmer.
Stir occasionally while seasoning with salt and pepper. As the sauce thickens, add more water (2 cups at a time). Repeat this a couple of times. Simmer for about 4 hours. Remove bay leaves before serving.
Cynar is a bitter liqueur made from 13 herbs and plants, the predominant one being artichoke. It’s name comes from cynara scolymus, the Latin name for artichoke. It has traditionally been enjoyed as either an aperitif or a digestif but has recently become a favorite ingredient on many craft cocktail menus.
Here is a recipe for the delicious Cynar Flip, courtesy of mixologist Thomas Mooneyham:
2 oz. Cynar
1 oz. Death’s Door Gin
.5 oz. honey syrup (equal parts honey and hot water)
1 whole egg
Combine all ingredients and shake in a cocktail shaker without ice. Add ice and shake again. Strain into a snifter and garnish with freshly grated nutmeg.
Well, here’s my first recipe post, and it is one of my favorites…meatballs.
While it is hard to make a really bad meatball, making a fantastic meatball can be a challenge. The first way to make sure your meatballs are full of flavor is to use a mix of both beef and pork. I prefer a 2/3 beef to 1/3 pork ratio, and don’t use a really lean beef. If it’s a healthy meatball you’re looking for, look away. With fat, comes flavor.
Also, use quality ingredients. Though it is more expensive, use real Parmigiano Reggiano over an American parmesan. There is a huge difference.
Don’t over mix or over shape your meatballs. You want them to be tender…overworking them will make them denser. When mixing them, stop when all of the ingredients have just come together. When shaping, don’t pack them tightly. Keep them kind of loose; they won’t fall apart.
Finally, if you are adding the meatballs to your sauce (or gravy!), precook them in the oven. The flavors of the sauce will infuse into them more easily. If you are making them on their own and adding an already prepared sauce, then cook them in a skillet. A nice sear can be delicious, especially in a sandwich.
1 lb. ground beef and pork
½ medium onion, finely chopped
½ cup plain bread crumbs
½ cup Parmigiano Reggiano
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tbsp. finely chopped Italian parsley
salt and pepper, to taste
2 tbsp. olive oil (if preparing in skillet)
Put all of the ingredients into a mixing bowl. Mix together with hands until just mixed. Season with salt and pepper.
If preparing in oven, preheat oven to 350. Shape meatballs into about 3-inch balls and place on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes turning each meatball over about halfway through baking. After removing meatballs from oven, let sit for about 20 minutes, then add to sauce.
If preparing in a skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Shape meatballs into about 3-inch balls and place in skillet. Cook covered for about 20 minutes, turning occasionally to brown all sides. Let cool on a plate lined with paper towel to absorb excess grease.