Marcella Hazan’s bolognese sauce

This is the best bolognese sauce I’ve made to date!  Andy loved it.  He said “fire” and “the best” while he shoveled it into his mouth.  I agree with him.  I researched bolognese and found a plethora of recipes.  So how to choose?  I ended up picking one of Marcella Hazan’s recipes because several bloggers and articles said hers (and specifically this one of hers) was the best.  I was hesitant because I’ve only made bolognese with red wine – and in this calls for white.  And well, now my vote is in too.  Enjoy –

This serves 4-6 people depending on your pasta/meat ratio.  I doubled it and froze some for a later delicious date.


  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 2/3 cup chopped celery
  • 2/3 cup chopped carrot 
  • 3/4 pound ground beef chuck (or 1 part pork to 2 pounds beef)  
  • Salt, fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • nutmeg 
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 1/2 cups canned imported Italian plum tomatoes, cut up with their juice
  • 1 1/4 to 1 pound pasta
  • freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano 


Place the oil, butter and onions in your pot on medium heat and cook until the onions are a translucent.  Stir often so as not to burn the onions.

Add the celery and carrot to the pot and continue to cook for about 3-4 minutes – until soft. 

Place the ground meat into the pot and add a healthy pinch of kosher salt and grind a bunch of black pepper.  

Cook stirring here and there until the meat has lost its raw red color.

Add the milk and reduce to a simmer – continue to cook and stir  until the milk has bubbled away completely.  

Next add a tiny grating of whole nutmeg (if you have – or measure out grated) – approximately 1/8 of a teaspoon.  A little goes a long way here. 

Add the wine and let it simmer until it evaporates.  

Add the tomatoes and juice and bring to a boil.  Once boiling reduce to the slightest simmer.   Marcalla says “when the tomatoes begin to bubble, turn the heat down so that the sauce cooks at the laziest of simmers, with just an intermittent bubble breaking through to the surface”

Simmer, uncovered for at least 3 hours.  This is important.  The flavors will meld and the sauce will deepen in flavor.  Stir occasionally.  If your sauce looks dry add a half cup of water here and there – and continue to cook and simmer.  At the end you should cook until all the water has evaporated.

Re season with salt and pepper.  And really – don’t be shy about the salt.  Use kosher salt and keep adding bit by bit to taste.  I find that most home cooks underseason – being afraid of salt.  And yes, if you are following a low salt diet – then I get it.  But at restaurants we use salt really liberally.  And it truly brings out the flavor of your dishes.

Cook pasta and drain – add a tablespoon of butter (if you choose) and then mix in the sauce – serve with cheese on the side.


pecan pie

Delicious.  Scrumptious.  Rich.  Nutty (obviously!)  Tasty.  I’m not a pecan pie expert and this is the first and only one I’ve made, but I think it is the best one!  Made this for a birthday celebration and it was loved by all.  Especially me! This is from smitten kitchen and Deb Perelman (the writer, cook and photographer) explained the greatness of this particular pecan pie in her blog.   I didn’t add the chocolate layer option because the birthday girl is more of a nut or vanilla fan.  But I imagine that would be very good.  Also, I didn’t have the booze in the house but I will next time.   I’m not re-writing the recipe because Deb wrote it out with terrific instructions.  I will just repeat to not overbake this.  I did a little.  I did.  It was still good, but you can do better.

You will need Lyle’s Golden Syrup which you can probably find at your grocery store but if not you can find it here.  And vanilla ice cream for sure.

pecan pie from smittenkitchen

banoffee pie (just a really good banana pie!!)

AMAZING Jason exclaimed, eyes wide the other night after he had a bite of this pie.  He was so excited!  And today I got a text from him asking for the recipe because “that was so insanely good and I want to try to make it for Thanksgiving.”  So…I figured many of you may be interested in this recipe for the holidays, because yes, so so so good, a little different and although there are a few steps to this, you can do them slowly and in advance of your meal (any meal).

The caramel filling is really decadent and rich.  The espresso powder in the whipped cream adds a something new to the flavor.  The digestive cookie crust is another departure from the normal graham cracker crust which really gives the pie more depth of flavor and less sweetness somehow.  And well, bananas are bananas!

You will need to get digestive cookies from the market.  You can also order them online here.  Hard to get less than three pack via mail, but they are good cookies – great to use to make the pie again, share with friends (Jason, I’m going to give you some) or crumble and put in vanilla ice cream so good!

You also need to get some sweetened condensed milk and some espresso powder.  You can get the milk at the store and espresso powder here or here or at a specialty store.  It lasts for a long time – and it is called for in many chocolate cake recipes as well.

Make the filling and crust up to a day before you plan to serve it.  Finish it closer to service with the topping and bananas.

banoffee pie (very slightly adapted from Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey by Jill O’Connor):


2 cans (14 oz each) sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
hot/boiling water as needed

crumb crust

2 1/2 cups (plus extra to sprinkle on top) wholemeal digestive biscuit crumbs (use a food processor to make the crumbs)
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup (one stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt


3-4 medium bananas
2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon instant espresso powder dissolved in
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

For the filling, stir together the sweetened condensed milk, vanilla extract, dark brown sugar, melted butter, and salt.  Place mixture in a 6 cup oven proof dish (approx.) and cover with tin foil.  Place this  filling pan, inside a larger baking pan (approx 9×13).   Place the double pans in the oven, then take hot or boiling water and fill the outer pan with water – about half way up thebrownie-pudding-pour sides.  Your custard will remain dry, covered and inside of the pan with the water.  (Example on the left is a chocolate dessert, but similar idea, remember the foil though.)  Bake for about 1 1/2 -2 hours.  Stir after 30 minutes, then in 15 minute intervals until the filling turns a toasty caramel color and thickens.  Remove from oven and hot water and let cool.  Make the crust while the filling cools – or while it is baking if you have 2 ovens.

For the crust, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Mix the crumbs, sugar, melted butter and salt together with a fork or your hands.  Press the mixture somewhat firmly into a 9 inch pie shell – or a similar sized container (a tart pan, decorative quiche pan) and place in the oven.  Bake for about 6-7 minutes until a little deeper brown.   Let cool.

Scoop and spoon the cooled filling into the pie shell.  At this point, you can cover and let sit for us to 24 hours.  But let sit for at least a few hours to set.

Make the topping by whipping up the cream with the sugar, epresso powder and vanilla.  Go to freshly whipped cream for instructions on how to do this.

Now, sprinkle a little awesome salt if you have it on top of the caramel filling.  I love my Malden sea salt.  Cut the bananas in about 1/2 inch thick slices.  Place on top of the filling.  I really jammed the bananas in since I really wanted to taste them.  Cover the bananas with the whipped cream.  Make sure you cover them all so they don’t brown.

Sprinkle bits of the crumbled digestive cookies on top and place in the fridge for a bit.  Serve when you are ready!







popcorn brittle

Yum.  Crunchy, sweet, salty and then chocolaty!  I made these treats and they were a hit with mostly me, Mark and Jack (Andy’s friends) and my sis in law Linda.  She kept telling Patrick that they were good “Patrick this is good!”  but sadly he refuses to enjoy popcorn in any form.  I happen to love popcorn.  It is up there with ice cream and brownies and lasagna.  So when I came across this recipe in Cooking Light – I was eager to try it.  Make no mistake, there is nothing really “lite” about these nuggets save for the fact popcorn replaces nuts.  Oh and speaking of nuts, my niece Emily who is severely allergic took a look at these and said, “wow, nuts” (clearly dissapointed that I made something so obviously nutty and placed it right in front her!)  But I was happy to report that these treats were miraculously nut free!  The brittle is good as is – or, like me you can dip or drizzle them with chocolate.  If you choose to keep them clean, crunch the brittle and mix it into vanilla ice cream.  Yum.

These can be a little tricky to make in that you must be careful working with the hot sugar – and you need a candy thermometer.  But beyond that – not too difficult.  Then of course the chocolate – the tempering of the chocolate.  See past posts for that and remember if you are into it, investing in a small tempering machine can be very helpful.

Oh, and these little gems last a long time so great for the holidays.

Enjoy –

popcorn brittle

5 1/2 cups popcorn (I cooked in a tad of oil and salted – you can also use plain, or air popped but I like the salt with the sweet)
1 1/2 cups sugar
6 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
3 tablespoons molasses
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt (unless you salted your popcorn like me)

Line a baking sheet with foil and coat foil with cooking spray.

Place popcorn in a lare zip lock bag.  Seal and crush with a mallet or rolling pin.  Set aside.

Place sugar, syrup and water and a medium small saucepan and cook for 1 minute or until sugar dissolves.  Stir to help it melt.

Now take next steps carefully as this mixture will become very hot.

Then cook, over medium high heat without stirring until a candy thermometer registers at 270 degrees (should take 7-9 minutes or so) then add molasses and butter – and cook until therm registers at 290 degrees.  Remove from heat.

Stir in baking soda, vanilla and salt.  Then add the reserved popcorn and mix to combine quickly – then carefully pour onto prepared baking sheet.  Spread with a palet knife or back of a spoon to flatten as best you can.

Let cool completely then break or cut into chunks.  Dip in tempered chocolate for an extra treat!


crack pie

How can you not make a pie called Crack Pie.  Having never tried crack itself it seemed like an exciting pie to eat.  I pulled and saved this recipe from the September issue of Bon Appetit – featuring The Milk Bar’s desserts.  I knew our friend Jason would be a terrific taster since he does not really eat chocolate (so sad).  Well, he loved it.  Of course he did – with all its oat-mealiness and brown sugar and butter.  We all loved it.  Especially me!  I’m slowly realizing that I truly like all desserts, not just chocolate or lemon or ice cream.  Exciting.  My mom was here visiting and she suggested that I cut a piece out for the photo insisting that it will be a much better picture.  It was her sneaky way of making sure she got a good taste of it too!  Yummy she said 🙂  The taste is hard to describe  – but it is rich and tasty and somewhat butterscotch-y with a crunchy oatmeal crust.  I managed to make this with my injured hand (well, really with out it) so anyone can do this!  The crust is press in – no rolling, so don’t be scared.  Serve with freshly whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.  Enjoy-

Oh, make this the day before you plan to serve.  It chills overnight and is great served cold.

crack pie (from Bon Appetit Magazine featuring the Milk Bar’s desserts):

oat cookie crust-
9 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick plus one tablespoon), room temp
5 1/2 tablespoons light brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons sugar
1 large egg
3/4’s cup plus 2 tablespoons old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 teaspoon kosher salt

3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon nonfat dry milk powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
6 1/2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
4 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Oat cookie crust – Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a sheet-pan with parchment or foil.  Beat 6 (just 6) tablespoons of the butter with 4 (just 4) tablespoons brown sugar and 2 tablespoons of the sugar with the paddle attachment of your mixer – or with hand held beaters.

Beat until light and fluffy and scrape bowl here and there.  This should take about 4-5 minutes.

Add the egg, and beat until pale and fluffy.  Add the oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and beat until well blended.  Transfer mixture to cookie sheet and press dough with hands to make a nice thin layer- about 1/2 inch thick or so.  Bake until nicely golden – about 17-20 minutes.  Transfer to a rack and let cool completely.

Transfer cooled oat cookie crust to a food processor (you can also do this all by hand – but my hand is hurt) and add 3 tablespoons butter and 1 1/2 tablespoons of the brown sugar.  Pulse until dough comes together.

Press into a 9 inch pie plate and make sure you push the crust up the sides of the pan.  Place the dish on a rimmed baking sheet and preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place oven rack in center of oven.

For the filling – Whisk together the sugar, brown sugar, milk powder and salt in a medium bowl.  Add the melted butter and mix until incorporated.  Add the cream, then the egg yolks and vanilla and whisk until well blended.

Pour the filling into the pie crust and place in oven with sheet-pan.  Bake for about 30 minutes – and then reduce the heat to 325 degrees and bake another 20-24 minutes – until the pie only jiggles slightly when jiggled.  It should look set around the edges and may have a few dark spots.

Place on cooling rack for 2 hours.  Then place in fridge uncovered and overnight.  Serve chilled with powdered sugar, and ice cream.  Good crack.  Enjoy –

milk chocolate malted ice cream sandwiches with chocolate brownie cookies

These ice cream sandwiches are delicious.  My son Greg asks for them often – and since it is a little work (not crazy work) to make the ice cream, I often blow his request off.  But he was very happy last night.  He turned to me… gave a quiet groan of delight, looked me in the eyes and simply thanked me.  My dad who really only likes Haagen Daaz choc choc chip also loves these little sandwiches.  He seemed surprised that he liked them so much – especially given the milk chocolate title.  But  the addition of bittersweet chocolate and malt really make the ice cream special and not too sweet.  The cookies are extra delicious too.  A little espresso deepens the flavor and I happen to love the texture of the mini chips.  And they are very easy to make.  My husband Rob can’t eat/drink milk (sadly) but is very content with these brownie-like cookies alone.  I am too!  I’ve also made the sandwiches with chocolate sorbet which he truly appreciates.  This recipe originated from Claudia Fleming – the former pastry chef of Gramercy Tavern.  The cookbook is lovely.  She suggests adding dried cherries to the cookies which I did (only to a quarter of the batter because my family would not be happy).  And they too were yummy.  Oh and by the way, you can also crumble the cookies and mix them into the ice cream which is also verrry good!

chocolate brownie cookies (barely adapted from The Last Course by Claudia Fleming):

1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large eggs, room temp
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 tablespoon brewed espresso
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
5 oz extra bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup mini chips
toasted nuts or dried cherries (optional…to taste)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl and set aside.

With whisk attachment, beat the eggs for a few seconds then add the sugar, espresso and vanilla.  Beat until this turns thick.  It should take about 15 minutes on high speed.

In the meantime, over a pot of barely simmering water (or double boiler) – melt chocolates and butter.  You only need about an inch of water in the saucepan, bring it to a boil, and reduce to simmer.  Place a metal bowl on top of the saucepan making sure that the water does not touch the bowl of chocolate.  Once melted, remove from heat.  Do not cook the mixture, just melt it.

Remove the thick egg batter from the mixer and gently fold in the melted chocolates and butter.  Fold about half way – you should still see streaks – and then fold in the flour mixture and mini chips.  Fold all until just incorporated.  (Add dried cherries or chopped nuts if desired.)

If batter seems runny at this point, let it sit for about 5 minutes.  If thick, you are good to go.  Drop by rounded teaspoons onto parchment lined baking sheets and bake until puffed and cracked about 8-9 minutes – you can rotate the pans mid-way.  Try not to over cook these cookies…otherwise they will dry out.

Cool and enjoy!  If you plan to make ice cream sandwiches with these (either with the malted ice cream or store bought ice cream), I find it is easier to handle the cookies if you freeze them first.  This prevents them from breakage when trying to squish the cookies and ice cream together when making the sandwiches.

milk chocolate malted ice cream (adapted from The Last Course by Claudia Fleming):
3 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
12 large egg yolks
3 oz milk chocolate, chopped
1 oz extra-bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/4 cups chocolate Ovaltine mix
1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon salt to taste

In a medium saucepan mix together the milk, heavy cream and 1/4 cup sugar.  Heat the mixture over medium heat and bring to a simmer.  Watch it carefully – you don’t want it to boil.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and remaining sugar (1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons).  Chop the milk and bitter chocolates and set aside in a large bowl.

Now you will “temper” the eggs which means warming them slowly so that they do not turn into scrambled eggs!  With a ladle, spoon a small amount of hot cream/milk into the eggs.  Continue slowly ladle by ladle and constantly whisking the eggs while you do this.  Keep going until you’ve incorporated about 3/4’s of the hot milk into the eggs.

Pour the warm egg and milk/cream mixture into the remaining cream and milk on the stove.  Over low heat, mix the custard constantly with a wooden spoon keep the mixture moving at all times.  The custard should thicken so that it coats the back of the wooden spoon.  It should take about 7 minutes.  Do not boil.  Cook slowly and carefully.

Immediately pour custard over the chopped chocolates.  Mix and stir until the chocolate is melted and smooth.  Add the Ovaltine and stir until combined.  Strain through a fine sieve and into a container or bowl.  Cover and chill in refrigerator preferably overnight but for at least 4 hours.

Freeze in your ice cream maker and enjoy!!

blackout cake

When I asked Ali (my friend and neighbor) what I could bake for her birthday, she looked hard and focused and said “chocolate.”  I said like chocolate chocolate crazy chocolate?  And she replied with a good happy grunt.  So I started to hunt for a cake recipe that would suit both of us since I was going to celebrate too!  I can get lazy with cakes and pies – which is why I’m psyched about this blog.  It forces me to really bake out of my box.  And I can be very tentative about cakes because I unfortunately do not have that artistic flair that makes it all just look good.  But the blackout cake is perfect because you get to cover your cake with lots of cake crumbs, hiding any imperfections.  I found and slightly adapted this recipe from the Nordstrom Flavors cookbook.  I cook from this cookbook all the time – really great recipes here – but this is my first dessert.  And wow, what a success.  We ALL loved it.  Ali and her husband Jonathan, their daughter Danika (their little guy Leo just wants Dove chocolates so no cake for him), my kids Andy and Sylvie (not Greg because he won’t even try chocolate cake), my husband Rob and my daughters piano teacher too (who I happened to give a piece to).  Oh, and me!  I overate and actually still feel slightly sick but it was worth it!  If you make it in stages it is not overwhelming.  I made the pudding first day, the cake the next day, and the ganacblackout-ali-cakehe and assembly the third.  But if you’ve got the time you can make it happen in a day.  Just read the recipe all the way through – so you can get yourself very organized.

blackout cake (adapted from the Nordstrom Flavors cookbook – which I believe you might be able to purchase at the store):

1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons unsweetened natural cocoa powder (not Dutch processed)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 cup (6 oz) chopped chocolate – I used a mixture of semi sweet and bittersweet
2 tablespoons unsalted butter -room temp

Fill a medium sized bowl with a lot of  ice and water (once the pudding is cooked, you will place it in this bowl to stop further cooking of the pudding – and to speed up the process if you are making this all in one day).  In a sturdy saucepan, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, cocoa and salt.  Gradually whisk in the milk – and mix until dry ingredients are incorporated.  Add the chocolate to the mixture and over medium heat, cook the pudding – whisking constantly.  The chocolate will melt first and then slowly the mixture will heat up and boil and have a nice smooth sheen to it.  Remove from heat and add the butter one tablespoon at a time.  The whole process should take about 6-8 minutes or so.  Pour the pudding into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap so that it touches the pudding itself and place a few holes in it to let the steam escape.  Place this pudding bowl in the ice bath.  The pudding will need an hour in the ice bath to get it spreadable – but again, I made this in advance and put it in the refrigerator until the next day.

2 cups flour
1/3 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder (not Dutch processed)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 sticks (one cup) unsalted butter, room temp
2 cups sugar
3 large eggs (room temp)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk (room temp)
1 cup strong brewed coffee (I used my Nespresso machine – and used espresso)
chocolate chips (to taste)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter the bottom and sides of two 9 inch round cake pans, line with parchment, butter again, and lightly dust with flour tapping out excess.

Place first five dry ingredients in a bowl, whisk, and set aside.  In a mixer – with paddle attachment beat butter on medium high speed until light about 2 minutes then add sugar and continue to beat on high for another few minutes until light and fluffy.  Scrape down the bowl, and mix again.  Lower the speed to medium and add the eggs, one at a time until each is incorporated as well as the vanilla.  Remember to scrape and scrape again, mix again.

On the lowest speed (or by hand with a spatula), add the flour mixture in 3 additions and alternate with the buttermilk in 2 additions – ending with the dry.  Do not over mix.  Gently pour in the coffee or espresso and again, mix until just incorporated.  Divide the cake into the two pans.  Now add the chocolate chips to just one of the cake pans – I like a cake with a bite and texture – so I added these to the recipe.  But you must keep one cake free of chips because you later blend part of it to make the outside crumb.

Bake for about 40 minutes – but again, please check before that – and pull when cake is just cooked.  Let cool for 5-10 minutes, then run a knife around the edges, invert on a rack and peel off parchment.  Let cool completely.  I find it is easier to cut these cake rounds horizontally if you put them in the freezer for a bit to harden – especially if you are a novice.  So wrap up and freeze if you choose.  Either the night before or a few hours before assembly.

2 cups heavy cream
3 cups semisweet chocolate chips or chopped chocolate
1/4 teaspoon salt (optional, but I like it- brings out the chocolate flavor)

Place chocolate in a bowl.  Heat cream to a simmer and then pour over the chocolate and let stand for a few minutes then whisk until smooth and shiny.  Let this stand at room temp for a few hours – until it thickens (you’ll need to frost the cake with it).  I ended up putting it in the refrigerator and mixing every now and then to speed up the process.


Ok, place the frozen (or not) cake on the counter and cut each one horizontally into two slices.  You can even pop back in the freezer so again they are easier to handle.  Pull one of the cake layers from the pack – one with out chocolate chips – and in a food processor, gently pulse until it turns into cake crumbs.  (I have a mini processor so I did it in batches.)  Set crumbs aside.

Take the pudding out and mix well (especially if refrigerated overnight).  Place one cake slice on a cardboard cake round (or use the base of a tart pan, or spring-form pan) and spread with half of the pudding.  Repeat with the next cake layer, the other half of pudding, and top with a cake layer.  Pour some ganache on top of the cake and spread it with an offset spatula or knife, and continue to spread the ganache over the sides of the cake.  It doesn’t have to look pretty here…as it will be covered with crumbs!  Spread and add more ganache to your liking (I like a lot!)  Then let set in the fridge for about 5 minutes.

Place the crumbs on parchment or tinfoil, and holding the cake bottom in one hand, scoop up the cake crumbs (in the other hand) and press them into the cake, all around and on top – turning the cake as you go.  Some crumbs will stick, some will fall, but keep going and pressing until the cake is covered.  The foil below will catch the mess (well, most of it – I should warn you this will be messy).

And that is it!  It seems like a lot when I write it out, but  in stages it is doable and so worth the effort.  Store this in the refrigerator – but pull out about an hour before you eat it to truly enjoy the tastes and flavors as it is much better and meant to be eaten at room temperature.

Oh, and btw – you will most likely have extra ganache.  This will keep in the refrigerator for some time.  Melt before use, and enjoy as a rich chocolate sauce over ice cream, dip a frozen banana in, or simply make a mini fondue for your family with fresh fruit as a treat.