Monday 20 August 2007

TGRWT #5: Waiter, there's chocolate in my pasta!

Who would have thought? Pasta and chocolate go well together! I was a skeptic at first but given that the assignment for TGRWT #5 (They go really well together) was to find a chocolate and meat recipe, I decided to ignore my misgivings and try out a meat sauce recipe that i found in this book, one of my favourite books on one my favourite foods in the world - chocolate.

Besides the addition of chocolate, this pasta sauce was otherwise much like any other bolognese sauce, albeit a hearty one with the addition of pinenuts and raisins as well. It took a relatively short amount of time to cook and soon M and I were sitting down to dinner. Since I hadn't told M in advance that I was planning to try this recipe, I told him that I wanted him to taste the pasta and guess what special ingredient I had added to the sauce. Unfortunately, the cocoa nibs that I put in a small side dish for garnishing the pasta was a dead giveaway. He guessed chocolate. After asking him if he could actually taste it though, he confessed that if he hadn't seen the nibs, he wouldn't have thought there was chocolate in the pasta.

Tasting the pasta for myself, I had to agree with him. The first sensation of flavour that I got when I took my first bite was the lingering aroma of the red wine, and although the sauce was sweeter and slightly thicker than most bolognese sauces, I wouldn't have guessed there was chocolate in there either. Despite not being able to pick out the chocolate flavour, we both agreed that the chocolate added to the richness of the sauce. If you get a chance to make it, I'd highly recommend garnishing with cocoa nibs - they add an interesting texture to the dish.

Giuliano's sweet and savory meat sauce with chocolate
From bittersweet

1 medium red onion
3 celery stalks
2 medium carrots
1 medium garlic glove
10 sprigs Italian parsley, leaves only
4oz pancetta
3 to 4 tbsp olive oil
1 pound lean ground beef
11/4 dry red wine
1 cup drained canned Italian tomatoes, or 3/4 cup tomato puree
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup raisins
2 tbsp pine nuts
3/4 ounce bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 tbsp sugar
1 pound dried or fresh tagliatelle or other egg pasta
Cocoa nibs, crushed with a rolling pin or coarsely chopped (optional)

Finely chop the onion, celery, carrots, garlic, and parsley. Dice the pancetta. In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil. Add the chopped vegetables, parsley, and pancetta, and saute slowly over low heat for about 15 minutes, until the vegetables are translucent and beginning to brown. Add the ground meat and stir it into the sauteed ingredients with a fork or wooden spoon. When the meat is no longer pink, add the wine and simmer to evaporate it, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, unless using puree, pass the tomatoes through a food mill.

When the wine has evaporated, add the tomato puree to the pan. Season lightly with salt and pepper, and simmer slowly for about 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the dolce-forte: Combine the wine vinegar, raisins, pine nuts, chocolate, and sugar in a small bowl; set aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

When the sauce is ready, stir in the dolce-forte and simmer 5 minutes longer. Correct the seasoning with salt and pepper, and add additional vinegar or sugar if necessary.

Cook the pasta until al dente. Reserve some of the cooking water, then drain the pasta. Pour a little sauce into the bottom of a serving dish and top with the pasta and the remaining sauce. Toss the pasta and sauce together, moistening it with a little of the reserved pasta water if necessary. If you like, pass a bowl of cocoa nibs at the table to sprinkle over the pasta.