As Melissa and I sat observing both the clientele and each other, we chatted and got to know one another in an awkward, but oddly disarming way. This is Melissa’s way – no matter how bizarre the circumstances might be, she always manages to make you feel like it is the most natural thing in the world for you to be where you are, when you are, with her. Before I knew it, our food was sitting in front of us and, to my horror, it was a huge plate of pasta with meat sauce! This was at the height of the mad cow scare in the UK, and just days before I left, my mother pulled me aside and very gravely said, “I need you to be careful of one thing for me while you are there.” At the time, my mind raced about all of the topics I did NOT want to discuss with my mother, namely sex, sexuality, and partying. “Please do not eat the beef,” she said. While I sighed relief in those days before departing, there I was sitting with a HUGE plate of BSE beef in front of me within the first few hours of landing on British soil! My hunger far outweighed my sensibilities (and my mother’s paranoia), so I delved in and found it to be pretty standard pasta-and-meat sauce; palatable, but nothing to write home about (and certainly not to my mum!).
Since that first plate of “Bolognese,” I have come to discover that this dish is so far beyond anything I had as a kid or in my early adulthood. Where those dishes were meat-studded glops of tomatoe-y sauce, real Bolognese is a lovingly nuanced dish of mostly meat, little tomato, and a lot of surprises. It is somewhat labor-intensive, but has more to do with your level of patience than anything. My recipe changes pretty much every time I make it. In my last go, I think I figured out how to treat everything properly so that the texture comes out just right. You certainly do not need to grind the meats for this sauce yourself, but I did so this time and I think it brought a certain smooth richness to dish.
I encourage you to take a few hours and make this dish for yourself and anyone else you think is deserving of the love you put into it. It is undoubtedly one of the most satisfying things I can think of eating, and those you share it with will certainly appreciate your efforts.