Finished with a twist

The culinary scholar recognizes five sauces: bechamel, veloute, espagnole, tomato and hollandaise. No more. All sauce, he insists, flows from one of these "mother sauces." A charmingly compact, if incomplete, worldview, ignoring, as it does, the chutneys and pestos and salsas of the world.

Still, there's a certain pleasure in charting the sauce family tree, much the way the English scholar boils down literature to seven plots. No more.

I like to think of my life as more creatively exasperating than seven plots and five sauces. But then, what character recognizes her plight, trapped in a storyline?

Lunch and literature collided recently when I heard tell of Bolognese bolstered with mascarpone. I browned and simmered and thickened. And sighed in disappointment. I braved Marcella Hazan's six-hour Bolognese, a creamy, fine-grained endeavor I'd term "grandmother sauce." I yearned for bold, chunky and quick.

After a week in which our family tree was nourished by nothing but pasta, heavily sauced, I hit on a pleasingly bold, chunky, quick combination. And sighed with relief. I think the English scholar would call this Plot 3: The quest. And the culinary scholar would call it Sauce 4: Tomato. I'd call it satisfying and — given that swirl of mascarpone — finished with a twist.

Quick Bolognese

Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 40 minutes
Serves: 4

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ an onion, finely chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
¼ pound ground beef
¼ pound ground pork
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup dry red wine
1 28-ounce can plum tomatoes in juice
½ teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons mascarpone
¾ pound pasta (gemelli twists work nicely)
Grated Parmesan cheese

Soften:
In a wide heavy skillet, heat butter and oil over medium heat. Add onion, celery and garlic. Cook, stirring, until soft, about 5 minutes.

Brown:
Add beef and pork. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, breaking up meat with a wooden spoon, until it has lost its pink color, about 5 minutes. Pour in wine. Cook, stirring, until wine has disappeared, about 5 minutes.

Simmer:
Use the food processor, blender or food mill to puree tomatoes and their juices. Pour into skillet. Season with oregano, nutmeg and red pepper. Let simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened and flavorful, about 25 minutes. Swirl in mascarpone.

Boil:
Meanwhile, cook pasta tender but firm. Drain. Toss with sauce. Serve with Parmesan.

Leah Eskin is a Tribune Newspapers special contributor. Email her at leahreskin@aol.com.

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