Matthew Daughaday + Reeds American Table’s Bolognese Sauce

Growing up in their University City home, Matthew Daughaday’s family observed what some might call “old-school dining.” They had dinner every night at 6pm; everyone had to help out and no one could leave the table early. Daughaday has drawn inspiration from these moments in his youth for what he creates at his restaurant, Reeds American Table. The dishes, which embody an elevated take on rustic cooking, are often ones his family has eaten together. The bacon fat-fried cornbread is what his father used to make every winter with chili. The meatloaf was his personal favorite dish as a child. And the beef Bolognese is a translated version of what most American families serve—a giant pot of spaghetti, a can of red sauce and a shaker of Parmesan.

As a chef, Daughaday strives to perfect his craft—creating exceptional dishes while rejecting the formalized exclusivity that often comes along with fine dining. He says, “The feeling of sitting around the dinner table and laughing and talking with family was something—especially once I realized that wasn’t the experience that everyone had—I wanted to share with other people. I felt that if you were using ingredients people didn’t recognize, it took away from the dining experience.”

For Daughaday, opening Reeds was a test of whether this approach would work in practice. Based on the roar of positive feedback he’s received for his meatloaf alone, the volume of which still astounds the chef, old-school is a very welcome approach.

Photo by Jennifer Silverberg

Photo by Jennifer Silverberg

Ingredients:

2 pounds ground beef
1/4 pound pancetta (can substitute with bacon), diced small (1/8-inch pieces)
2 carrots
4 celery stalks
2 onions
5 cloves garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
6 ounces tomato paste
1 herb sachet with 2 sprigs thyme, 1 sprig rosemary, 1 sprig sage
1 cup white wine
1 cup milk
1 cup water
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste

Preparation:

1. Cut the pancetta into a small dice, about 1/8” pieces. You can also place pancetta in a food processor to get it to the appropriate size. Place into a bowl.

2. Dice carrots, onions and celery, then place into a food processor together with the garlic cloves and pulse until finely chopped. Place into a bowl on the side.

3. Take all the herbs and create a sachet by binding them into a bundle with butcher’s twine.

4. Measure out all the wine, and set aside. Combine the water and milk in a separate bowl.

Cooking:

1. Heat a heavy-bottomed pot, such as a Dutch oven on medium-high heat. Add olive oil and start by cooking the ground meat and bacon together. Season lightly with a pinch of salt. One important part of this step is to cook the ground meat past the point where you think it is done. You want to cook until about half the meat becomes almost crispy. This is all about developing depth of flavor and texture for the dish.

Once it’s cooked, take the meat out of the pan and drain the fat, reserving about 1/4 cup.

2. Place the pan back on the stove over medium heat, adding the reserved fat. Add the celery, carrot, onion and garlic mix, season with a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring regularly, until the vegetables begin to lightly caramelize, about 7-10 minutes.

3. Once the vegetable mix is cooked, add the tomato paste. Cook the tomato paste and vegetables, continuing to stir often, until the tomato paste caramelizes slightly, turning a rusty red color, about 3-5 minutes.

4. Add the wine—mix in and cook out for only about 2 minutes.

5. Add the meat back to the pan with the herb sachet, milk and water. Turn the heat down to a low simmer. Cook on low heat, stirring occasionally, for about 1 hour.

Serving:

1. Once the Bolognese is done, it can be used immediately or stored in the refrigerator for up to five days.

2. If using immediately, cook spaghetti in boiling, salted water. Add pasta to Bolognese with a few ounces of the pasta water and cook together for five minutes, until the noodles take on a reddish hue.

3. Serve in bowls topped with freshly grated Parmesan and fresh herbs such as torn basil and parsley.

This story comes from ALIVE’s Let’s Come Together issue. Read more from that issue online, or find where you can pick up a copy around St. Louis.

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