Dining With Debbie: Blogger covers food, faith, family and fun

by Brenda McClain

“This is your world. Shape it or someone else will.” — Gary Lew, from DiningwithDebbie.net

Are you a foodie? Do you love food and creating interesting fare for family and friends? Maybe owning your voice is blogging about what you cook from scratch and feed your family? Or, are you more like Sandra Lee, a culinary school drop-out who prefers semi-homemade? Sandra gave her voice to her own style that launched her food career. Debbie Horton Arnold, on the other hand, retired after 20 years teaching English, and began blogging, about what else?

Food. Food, faith, family and fun.

Debbie Horton Arnold is a sister, daughter, wife, grandmother and friend. She is also co-administrator of Arkansas Women Bloggers. She’s come to my rescue and many others when we’ve come up against a problem with our own blogs.

Most important, she’s spot-on when looking for a specific recipe. Her directions are perfect. Having tried many Paparadelle sauces — even Martha Stewart’s — to find one made in my own backyard is pretty crazy. Here is one of my favorites on her blog.

Paparadelle {Pasta} Bolognese
* (see note)
1 recipe of Tuscan Garlic Sauce
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
2/3 cup finely chopped celery
1/2 cup finely chopped bell pepper (preferably red)
2/3 cup finely chopped carrots
2/3 cup finely chopped porcini or portabello mushrooms
Olive oil
freshly cracked black pepper
3/4 lb. ground chuck
1 lb. ground Italian sausage
3 oz. pancetta, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups whole milk
1 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup minced fresh oregano
1/2 cup minced fresh Italian parsley
1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh Genovese basil        Freshly shaved Parmesan or Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 1/2 lbs. pasta, prepared according to package directions

Prepare or purchase the Tuscan Garlic Sauce. Brown the ground chuck, Italian sausage and pancetta in a large skillet; drain and rinse. Add the meat mixture to the milk in a large saucepan. Bring to a slow simmer; continue to simmer until most of the liquid is evaporated and the meat begins to sizzle; set aside.

Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and the butter to the skillet; add the onion, celery, bell pepper and carrots to the skillet and cook until the vegetables are softened but not browned. Add the mushrooms to the skillet and cook for about 1 minute. Add all of the vegetables and the meat mixture to a large ovenproof cast iron Dutch or French oven. Add the previously prepared Tuscan Garlic Sauce and the wine.

Simmer slowly on the stovetop or in a 300-degree oven for a minimum of three hours; stir about once per hour. The vegetables should be very soft and almost melted in the sauce and the majority of the liquid should have evaporated. The fat will be separated from the sauce. Simply stir before adding to the pasta. Stir in all of the herbs and allow to simmer for at least 30 minutes longer. The longer the sauce simmers, the better it gets. Taste and correct for salt if necessary.

Prepare the pasta (desired amount) according to package directions to the al dente stage. Do not overcook. Drain off excess water and return to pasta pan.

Add the Bolognese ragu to the pasta one ladle at a time and stir until all of the pasta is coated. Place in individual pasta bowls and top with freshly shaved Parmesan or Parmigiano-Reggiano. Garnish with additional chopped basil or parsley, if desired.

* I prefer to use Amore Tomato Paste and Muir Glen crushed tomatoes or imported Italian crushed plum tomatoes. However, they do tend to be more expensive than many that you will find on the shelves. Use the very best quality that you can reasonably afford. Do not use fire-roasted tomatoes. Use fresh garlic cloves — not the already minced kind in the jar. It’s worth it.

The recipe may be a bit complicated. It’s worth it. Then, when you’ve more problems with your blog, you will be well fed and ready to move mountains.