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Taking Pure Joy | Thoughts from a Private Chef

Classic Bolognese

Classic Bolognese

Everyone does meat sauce...right? Everyone and everyone's grandmother has their own version. In my opinion, bolognese is the king of all meat sauces. It is a creamier, richer version of what you might typically whip up. That richness comes from hours of simmering and the addition of full-fat milk that sets it apart from a more "mainstream" meat sauce. Traditionally, bolognese does not even contain tomatoes! But we will add them here. This recipe is my version of bolognese. It is the version I made the first time I threw a dinner party for my Italian [then] boyfriend and 10 (TEN!) of his friends in our little apartment in Florence, Italy. I was 1 month into culinary school at the time. Anyone can do it. It just takes a little patience, a lot of love, and the right ingredients. Here you are!

Ingredients for the Sauce (for 6 plus some):

  • 3 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 9 tbsp butter
  • 1.5 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cups chopped celery
  • 2 cups chopped carrot
  • 1 ½ pounds ground beef chuck (or you can use 1 part pork to 2 parts beef)
  • ¾ pound ground Italian sausage
  • ­­­Salt + Pepper
  • Generous sprinkling of dried oregano, parsley, and basil
  • 3 cup whole milk
  • 2 tsp Ground nutmeg
  • A good mix of dry oregano, basil, and parsley
  • 3 cups dry white wine
  • 4 ½ cups canned imported Italian plum tomatoes, cut up, with their juice
  • 4 pounds pasta (See below)
  • Freshly grated Pecorino OR Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (at the table)



  • Put the oil, butter in a heavy, large saucepan and melt on medium high heat
  • Add the chopped onion and a generous pinch of salt
  • Cook the onion, stirring periodically, until it has become translucent
  • Add the chopped celery and carrot and sauté for another ~2 minutes until veggies to come together, coated in butter...yum!
  • Add ground beef and sausage + a large pinch of salt and course, cracked pepper
  • Brown the meat
  • Add milk 1 cup at a time. Let each cup simmer gently until it evaporates. It is important to stir consistently so that the milk has a lesser chance of curdling 
  • Add the nutmeg + dry herbs and stir
  • Add the wine 1 cup at a time and let it simmer until it has evaporated, just like the milk 
  • Add the tomatoes and stir to incorporate
  • When the tomatoes begin to bubble, turn the heat down so that the sauce cooks at a LOW simmer
  • Simmer (uncovered) for 1.5 hours or more, stirring occasionally
    • NOTE: If you find your sauce starts to stick to the bottom of the pan, add a ½ cup of water, stir, and keep simmering
  • When it’s time to serve, cook your pasta of choice (make sure to HEAVILY salt your pasta water), drain the pasta (reserving some pasta water), and add the sauce along with as much pasta water as you need to help the sauce bind to the pasta * 


* ALWAYS RESERVE A LARGE COFFE MUG OR 2 OF YOUR PASTA WATER! Pasta water contains a lot of starch, which helps the past bind to the sauce...whatever sauce it is! So make sure to keep some pasta water on hand when you are saucing your pasta.

Flourless Chocolate Torte | with amaretto whipped cream

Flourless Chocolate Torte
with amaretto whipped cream
This recipes (cake AND whipped cream) only utilizes 8 ingredients, most of which you probably have in your pantry already...can you believe it!? It is a decadent, rich flourless chocolate cake that will please any crowd. The whipped cream I have been pairing with it utilizes a splash of amaretto that will keep your guests asking "How DO you do it?"


Ingredients for the Cake ~ this cake serves 8

  • 1 ½ sticks butter (I like to use salted, but you can use unsalted for a less bitter cake)
  • 12 ounces bittersweet chocolate
  • 6 large eggs
  • ½ cup sugar
  • A pinch of kosher salt
  • Powdered Sugar for dusting


Ingredients for the Whipped Cream Ingredients ~ makes about 3 cups whipped cream

  • 1 ½ cups COLD heavy whipping cream
  • ¼-⅓ cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp almond extract (vanilla will work too!)


Cake Instructions:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F
  • Heavily butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan ( any 9” pan will do)
  • Combine chocolate and 1 ½ sticks of butter in a glass bowl and microwave in 1minute increments, stirring between each minute until butter and chocolate come together in a smooth mixture
  • Combine eggs, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a Cuisinart (if you don’t have one, use a large glass bowl and a hand OR electric egg beater)
  • Beat on high until stiff peaks form
  • Gently fold half of the melted chocolate + butter mixture into the egg mixture with a rubber spatula until everything turns brown...then do the same with the rest!
  • Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and bake until the top is no longer shiny and barely jiggles...a knife should come out of the center clean...but only just (30-45 minutes)
  • If using a springform pan, remove the springform and dust with powdered sugar**...if using any other baking dish, allow to cool until you see the cake separate from the edges of the pan, at which point, turn the pan over onto a serving plate to free the cake...then sprinkle with powdered sugar


**to dust the cake with  powdered sugar, use a fine sieve...poor powdered sugar (or cocoa powder) into the sieve and pat with your hand over the cake...Magic!


Whipped Cream Instructions:

  • Combine heavy whipping cream, powdered sugar, and almond extract in the bowl of a Cuisinart (if you don’t have one, use a large glass bowl and a hand OR electric egg beater)
  • Mix on high until stiff peaks form
  • Plop on the top of your slice of flourless chocolate torte, and enjoy!


Want more from Taking Pure Joy? Check out the rest of our recipe box HERE. It grows every week! Want to see a specific recipe posted? Shoot us an email here! We will try our best. 

Toasted Hazelnut Salad

Toasted Hazelnut Salad
A bright, delicate salad of peppery arugula + toasted hazelnuts + shaved pecorino + lemon-tarragon vinaigrette. I dreamt this one up for a pasta making class I taught last fall. It was a bachelorette party at a gorgeous treehouse home overlooking the ocean in Aptos, CA. It was the girls' idea to toast the hazelnuts in the truffle oil I had brought. Yummmm!


Ingredients (to serve 4):

amounts are rough...maybe you want more hazelnuts and/or pecorino! It’s up to you!

  • Arugula (as much as you’d like)
  • ½-¾ cups whole hazelnuts (raw)
  • 4-8 oz. Good quality pecorino cheese
  • 1 tablespoon Truffle oil (optional...but YUMMMM)
  • ⅓ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Juice of 4 Lemons
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon Mustard
  • 1 teaspoon Honey
  • 2 tablespoons chopped Tarragon OR Thyme
  • Salt + pepper to taste



  • Toast the hazelnuts:
    • Place a small pan on the stove over medium heat
    • Add the truffle oil - if you don’t have truffle oil, use olive oil!
    • Add the hazelnuts
    • Allow to toast until you feel like they might just burn, stirring occasionally...should take 2-4 minutes depending on your will smell them :)
  • Make the dressing
    • Chop the tarragon OR thyme
    • Combine lemon juice, olive oil, dijon, honey, and chopped tarragon in a bowl
    • Whisk, adding salt + pepper to taste
  • Shave the pecorino! Use the mandolin section of your cheese grater (the one that looks like 1 line straight across) OR use a knife (this is safer!)...just make sure to slice as finely as possible
  • Combine all of the ingredients and toss!


Want more from Taking Pure Joy? Check out the rest of our recipe box HERE. It grows every week! Want to see a specific recipe posted? Shoot us an email here! We will try our best.