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Spaghetti alla Turci

One of the most famous lost recipes in New Orleans, Turci’s spaghetti showed the Bolognese origins of founder Ettore Turci. In Italy, people regard to food of Bologna in much the same way we do Cajun food here. I’ve heard more than one Italian say that in Bologna, they eat anything, and usually cook it all in one pot. That’s the essence of this dish, which includes far more meats than is normally found in a pasta sauce. It’s an old-fashioned flavor and takes two days to make authentically. You must also suspend our modern disdain for tomato paste.

Bolognese sauce. It can be made ground like this, or in chunks.

  • Stock:
  • 1 small whole chicken (gizzards, liver and heart reserved)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 onion, cut into chunks
  • Leafy tops from 1 bunch celery
  • Stems from 1 bunch parsley
  • Sauce:
  • 1 pound ground veal
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • Gizzards and heart from the chicken above, chopped
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 lb. ham steak with fat, finely diced
  • 1 8-oz. can tomato paste
  • 1 28-oz. can whole Italian tomatoes, pureed
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 1/4 tsp. thyme
  • 1/2 tsp. basil
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • Meatballs:
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 1/2 cup freshly-grated bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • 12 sprigs fresh parsley, leaves only, chopped
  • 2 eggs, beaten into a froth
  • 8 oz. white mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 lbs. spaghetti

1. Put all the stock ingredients into a saucepan with 1/2 gallon of water. Bring to a light boil, then lower to a simmer. Simmer for 90 minutes, uncovered. Strain the stock and set aside. Put the chicken into a food storage bag and into the refrigerator.

2. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a heavy, large skillet over medium-high heat. Remove a fistful each of the ground veal and ground pork (put the rest into the refrigerator). Add the meats to the skillet, along with the chicken gizzards and heart. Let the meat brown well, then break it up with a kitchen fork. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.

3. In a large saucepan or dutch oven over medium heat, heat the remaining olive oil until it shimmers. Add the onions, celery, and garlic until they get soft.

4. Raise the heat to medium-high. Add the tomato paste and the pureed tomatoes. Cook for about ten minutes, stirring constantly, until it gets thick and noticeably darker in color.

5. Add the chopped ham and the browned veal and pork. Continue to cook and stir for another three minutes.

6. Add 5 cups of of the chicken broth, and the thyme, basil, and oregano. Bring to a boil then lower to a simmer. Cover the pot and let it simmer for for two hours. Stir the pot, scraping the bottom well every twenty minutes or so.

7. After two hours, turn off the heat and let the pot cool for a half-hour. Spoon the contents into a large bowl or food storage container. Put it into the refrigerator overnight to let the flavors come together.

8. The next day–about two hours before you’re ready to serve–put the sauce back onto the stove on low heat. If it seems too thick after it warms up, stir in add a little more chicken stock.

9. Pull about two cups of chicken meat–a blend of white and dark–from the chicken you used to make the stock. Slice it if necessary into pieces the size of the tip of your little finger.

10. Make the meatballs next. Combine the salt, pepper, bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, Italian seasoning and parsley with a fork. Wet your hands with cold water, and combine the remaining ground pork and veal with sprinklings of the bread crumb mixture and the beaten eggs. Handle all of this as gently as possible, rolling the meatballs into rough spheres about an inch and a half in diameter. Cracks should show around the outside. Gentle!

11. Heat 2 Tbs. of olive oil in a skillet until it shimmers. Drop a few of the meatballs in. Every few seconds, roll them around (gently!) until they’re browned all over (not cooked all the way through). Remove and drain. Keep going until all the meatballs are cooked.

12. Add the meatballs and the chicken to the sauce. Simmer for an hour, stirring only very lightly (to avoid breaking the meatballs). Add the mushrooms, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook another fifteen minutes.

13. Cook the spaghetti until still firm (six minutes or so). Drain and put it into a big bowl. Ladle about two cups of the liquid part of the sauce over the spaghetti and toss to coat. Serve in big bowls with the remaining sauce on top.

Serves eight to twelve.

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