The Wise Men surely meant well.
Gold, frankincense, and myrrh are nothing to shake a stick at.
But come bearing veal, pork, and beef today and a new Christmas tradition is born.
Bubble up a round of these while you cook.
And uncork the ineffable.
After it all, with the dishwasher humming and the Scotch-taping on overdrive, you may just hear sleigh bells in the distance.
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 5 stalks celery (preferably the small inner ones with leaves), finely chopped
- 3 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, microplaned
- salt and pepper
- 1/2 pound ground veal
- 1/2 pound ground pork
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon fennel seed, ground
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- dash of freshly ground nutmeg
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1 (16-ounce) can or box San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes, food milled or crushed by hand, with the juices
- 1 cup dry white wine (like this)
- 1 cup stock or water, more as needed
- 1 large sprig of sage and/or rosemary
In a 6 to 8-quart, heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat before adding the onion, celery, carrot, and garlic. Season with a Santa's sackful of salt and pepper and sweat over medium heat until vegetables are softened and fragrant.
Add the veal, pork, and beef to the vegetables over medium-high heat, using a wooden implement to unite them all. Season the trifecta generously, jostling until browned, about 15 to 20 minutes.
Introduce the tomato paste and spices, stirring until the mixture takes on a new persona.
Pour in the milk and cook until creamy and almost completely absorbed, about 10 minutes.
The tomatoes come next and get their 15 minutes of fame.
Add the wine--one glug for your glass and one for the pot--and the stock or water. Bring to a boil before dropping the heat, plunking in the herbs, and simmering, covered, for 2 to 2-1/2 hours, adding more liquid when/if it's cooked down too much.
Make any final adjustments before knocking off the heat, removing the spent herbs, and delighting the likes of some unsuspecting dried pasta (we love orecchiette rigate). Top with a White Christmas worth of Parmigiano.
Or, freeze a batch for an ordinary day.
Or, conjoin with that other sauce that begins with a 'b' for a lasagne of epic proportions.