At a certain point, you have to give up on the idea of having a traditional family. Or any family at all, in some cases. And so it goes with the traditional holiday meals. This is what I used to make at Christmas, for the tattered remains of my family. Now, it's the dish I make for people I consider my (non-related) family. It is everything I want to be as a cook: generous, comforting, rich and simple, loving and sublime. And while I'm at it, everything I'd like to be as person, too. Family, food, ourselves: a work in progress, always. I created this dish many years ago, cherry picking what I liked from a Mario Batali recipe and a Mark Bittman recipe. It's richer and longer cooked, as I recall, than either of the originals. I add more dairy pretty late in the game. And I messed around with the proportions of beef/veal/pork. I'm not crazy about tomato paste. You can use really good bacon instead of pancetta if you'd like; I use scissors to mince bacon, and so should you.
medium onions, finely chopped
large carrot, scraped and finely chopped
stalks celery, finely chopped
cloves garlic, minced
pancetta, minced or ground
cream, half and half, or milk, or a combination
35 oz can whole peeled Italian tomatoes, preferably San Marzano, with their juice
dry white wine
In This Recipe
In a very large, heavy-bottomed pot, heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic; saute over medium until translucent.
Raise heat to medium high; add veal, pork, beef and pancetta to the vegetables and brown for about 15 minutes, breaking up clumps of meat with the back of a spoon. You really want it to brown. Turn up the heat if you have to.
Add half the cream and simmer over medium heat until almost dry, about 15 minutes. Add the tomatoes, breaking them apart with your hands, and their juice, and simmer over medium heatfor 20 minutes. Add the wine and broth and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 2 hours, uncovered.
After two hours, add remaining cream. Simmer for another 1/2 hour, or longer, until the flavor has intensified and the sauce has become somewhat dry. This is not a saucy sauce; it's a meaty one. It's also rather pink.
Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve over pappardelle; pass freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano at the table.