gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, soy-free, sugar-free

I did something madder than a hatter.  Brace yourselves.

I added coconut milk to a traditional, nearly sacred, Italian dish.

EVERYONE, CALM DOWN.  Everything is going to be just FINE. I know, I know, I said it was a moment of sheer madness, did I not?

If my Calabrese grandfather were still alive, he would be shaking his head and gesturing a quick sign of the cross right about now as if to say, “The damage is done.  She’s in your hands now, God.”  And my grandmother?  My diet actually embarrasses her in front of her friends.  My gluten, dairy, and pork-free lifestyle has shamed her so much, in fact, that she (whom I would venture to say is the sharpest 83 year old woman on this planet) seems to have trained herself to conveniently “forget” my family’s food intolerances every time she sees us.  Interesting. Maybe my grandmother believes requesting that my gluten-intolerant mother whip up the gluten-rich cuisine she once routinely made will tempt her just enough to trick her into eating gluten again.  Maybe she believes denying our dietary alterations will just make them go away.  Whatever the reason may be, my culinary liberalism pains the woman.

I pray she forgives me for this one.  Especially since it is sinfully scrumptious.  So scrumptious that I must ask: what’s to forgive?  I’m thinking I just did dairy-free Bolognese lovers a favor.  Is the integration of coconut into a good marinara really so reprehensible?  Hey, I know that coconuts are not native to Italy.  That doesn’t mean two tastes half a world away cannot coexist in perfect harmony.  Furthermore, I have not yet ruled out the possibility that coconuts migrate.  You?


1 Tbsp olive oil

1 yellow onion, diced

1 medium carrot, peeled and diced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 28 oz can of Italian plum peeled tomatoes

1/2 lb ground veal, organic and grass-fed

1/2 lb ground bison, organic and grass-fed

2 oz (about 2 slices) hormone-free, antiobiotic-free turkey bacon (I use Applegate), finely chopped

2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp crushed red pepper

1/2 cup raw pine nuts (soaked overnight in 1/2 cup water)

2 Tbsp full fat, unsweetened coconut milk

1 package of Tinkyada penne pasta

grated Locatelli pecorino romano, to taste (optional)

1) Sauté onion and carrot in olive oil in large sauce pan over low/med heat until onion is transparent.  To help soften carrot, add water as needed and steam.  Once soft and water is cooked off, add garlic.  Sauté another minute.

2) Remove onion/carrot/garlic mixture from heat.  Blend until smooth.

3) Cut off stem ends of tomatoes, add to blender with all the juice as well.  Blend till frothy.

4) Pour blended mixture back into sauce pan.  Set aside.

5) Place ground veal and bison in a nonstick pan.  Brown the meat, breaking it apart as it cooks.  Pour off the fat if you’d like to.

6) Add the ground meat to the sauce and begin cooking over medium heat (until sauce is slowly bubbling).  Turn heat to simmer.

7) Add chopped bacon to the nonstick pan and stir-fry quickly till a bit crispy.  Add bacon to sauce.  Set timer for 25 minutes.  Stir occasionally.

8) Drain pine nuts and place in Vita mix (You could probably use a regular blender as well, though I haven’t tried it myself).  Add coconut milk.  Blend till as smooth as possible.  Spoon 1/4 cup of the cooking sauce into the Vita mix and blend more to help it become even smoother.  Set aside.

9) Boil pasta while sauce still cooks.

10) Within final 5 minutes of cooking time, add the pine nut “cream” to the sauce.  Stir until blended.

11) Serve a bowl of pasta with a ladle-full or two of sauce.  Sprinkle with Locatelli if desired.  Give thanks for Italy.


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