Eating Local in Phoenix

Pasta Bolognese with Locally Made Linguine

OnionThis past weekend I decided to experience a new venue for local food.  I had planned on attending the Tempe Farmers Market open air market from 2 – 6 p.m. on Saturday but got something of a late start (if we’re being completely honest, I left the house 25 minutes before the open air part closed due to, what can only be described as, severe procrastination).  However, my laziness paid off and I discovered that the store is open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. everyday and they stock a wide variety of local produce, meat, bread and even locally made pasta.  It’s the perfect solution for all those times when you need local food and the markets aren’t open, like at 6 p.m. on a weekend … or most times during the week.

Now, to be fair, the Phoenix Public Market also is open during the week, however, they seem to rely more on organic produce from California than local fruits and vegetables. And while the Tempe market has more local produce, it doesn’t have the fantastic sandwicherie aspect that I love so much about the Phoenix market.  The thing is, both stores are fantastic and the fact that the Phoenix metropolitan area has two stores featuring local produce speaks to the uniqueness of this desert. Besides, it’s wonderful to have multiple options for finding local produce especially when you find yourself cooking dinner later than usual on a Saturday.

Like my first local shopping experience, my trip this week involved no recipe planThis week's grocery items and resulted in about a dozen ideas for dinner.  I toyed with making steak and potatoes before changing everything to create breakfast for dinner with chorizo and egg burritos.  There was even a brief period when I entertained the idea of cooking a pot roast, however, that got abandoned after realizing dinner wouldn’t be done until midnight or so.  Finally, I ended up with pasta Bolognese. The meal was the perfect way to use the giant, organic carrots that I continued to carry around in my basket despite my ever-changing recipe plan.

Mostly, however, it was also a chance to cook the locally made DeCio pasta that I see every week at the market.  During my typical shopping spree at the Phoenix Farmers Market I usually pass the DeCio stall about, oh, five times.  Amazingly, I’ve never stopped to find out more about the pasta.  Well, my bizarre pasta drought ended this week as I decided to honor my Italian heritage and break boldly into the world of local linguine with sauce.

DeCio linguineAs I stared down the impressive store display, I was overwhelmed by the wide variety of flavor combinations.  There was saffron, onion beet, Szechuan orange spice and chili cilantro among others.  Confused and curious about the potential unusual flavor combinations, I finally ended up with the somewhat mundane Herb D’Italia linguine.  I’m happy to report that my hesitation resulted in a solid flavor combination.  Though the pasta was a little more brittle than what you typically find, the taste and texture were excellent and the italian herbs in the pasta gave my rich sauce some much-needed lightness.

Paired with the Bolognese sauce, the pasta was not only savory but also extremely hearty.  Twelve ounces of linguine with 1 batch of sauce easily feeds four with leftovers.  With only a handful of tomatoes in the sauce – 1.25 pounds before peeling and seeding – the focus of the dish is on the meat.  This is where local meat really gets a chance to shine.   Because the additional seasonings are limited in this recipe, the strength of this dish relies on the flavor of the meat.  The ground beef from the Meat Shop was tender and rich and had a complex flavor profile making it more beefy (and yes, that’s a technical term) than the run-of-the-mill supermarket option.

This is a low maintenance dish although, do be warned, it requires about two hours of simmering time.  This is a great weekend recipe – once everything is simmering together you can walk away and do other things – however the slow cooking time means it wouldn’t be wise to start this recipe after a day at work. Unless, of course, you’re like me and enjoy eating dinner at 9:30 p.m.

Bolognese Sauce

Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen

Serves 4

Ingredients:Pasta Bolognese

1 tbsp butter

1/2 small onion, minced

1 large carrot, peeled and minced

1 small rib celery, minced

1 small bell pepper, minced

salt and pepper

1 pound ground beef

1 clove garlic, minced

1 1/2 cups milk

1 1/4 cups dry white wine

1 1/2 pounds whole tomatoes, peeled, seeded and crushed (keep some juice)

Parmesan cheese rinds (optional)

Melt the butter in a large sauce pan over medium heat.  Add in the onion, carrot, celery, bell pepper and a generous pinch salt.  Cook until vegetables are softened, about 6 minutes.

Stir in the ground beef and, using a wooden spoon to break the meat up, cook until no longer pink, about 4 minutes.  Add in the garlic.  Add the milk and simmer until the milk evaporates leaving behind clear fat (it’s important to wait until the fat turns clear, otherwise the sauce will be very greasy), about 15 – 20 minutes.

Stir in the wine and simmer until the liquid is almost evaporated, about 15 – 20 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and their juice and the parmesan rinds if using.  Reduce the heat to low and simmer gently (there should only be an occasional bubble at the surface) until the sauce is very thick, about 1 hour.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

When tossing with the pasta, add a little olive oil and any pasta cooking water if needed to loosen the consistency of the sauce.

The Perfect BiteBon appetit!


2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

The pasta looks really amazing! I love your bolognese recipe. It sounds very simple and yummy.
I can’t wait to try this. Thanks for sharing!

Comment by Tes

It was absolutely delicious!

Comment by Mary Consie

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