It’s been a crazy couple of weeks around our household. Water polo season is heating up, then there were the preparations for our Halloween gala that we hosted on Saturday night. Maybe not quite a gala, but we had loads of fun and our friends really brought it with some fantastic costumes. Way too much food was made and consumed and I will be sharing some of those recipes very soon. I also managed to squeeze another birthday in there. You know what that means? Several days of too much food and drink in a row. Now it’s time to recoup, recover, and detox and gather our strength for the coming holiday season.
I believe that calls for another comfort food favorite. Here is my version of a classic Italian dish. You can easily get a couple of meals out of a batch of this sauce so enjoy it on the weekend and store the rest in the fridge for a meal later in the week. There is a little work up front but once it is simmering you can shift your focus to other tasks until it’s time to boil up some pasta and serve dinner. This rich, meaty sauce is best served with a substantial pasta like fettuccine, tagliatelle, or rigatoni. It’s also a good choice to use in a baked pasta dish such as ziti or lasagna.
There are some basic elements that you see in almost every bolognese. A variety of different ground meats, finely diced vegetables, tomatoes, wine, and whole milk. Don’t be tempted to use lowfat milk. Trust me on this.
I use ground beef and ground pork. That’s a vacuum sealed package of ground beef there on the left. I always buy in bulk, divide it up, vacuum seal and freeze it. I have big love for my vacuum sealer.
Every bolognese recipe I have ever seen calls for cooking the meat directly into the cooked vegetables and then continuing on without draining the grease from the pan. I do it a little differently.
I cook the meat first in a large skillet. Then drain the grease and set it aside. Here’s why.
I don’t want this in my finished sauce. Icky!
You want to finely dice your veggies so that they are not too prominent in the sauce. Then cook them in a heavy bottomed Dutch oven that you’ve coated with olive oil. Garlic has the tendency to burn if cooked for too long so add it, along with 1 teaspoon of salt once the veggies have cooked and softened a bit.
After you add your meat, remaining salt, thyme, oregano, pepper, and wine to the veggies, push the mixture aside and add your tomato paste into the pot.
Stir till well combined.
Add in 2 cans of whole tomatoes, crushing the tomatoes with your hands as you add them to the pot. Be sure to use a good quality, Italian variety. Add in the beef broth and milk, stir well, and bring almost to a boil. Turn heat down to the lowest setting you have on your stove and simmer, uncovered. Leaving the lid off will allow some of the moisture to cook off which results in the sauce cooking down into rich, meaty deliciousness.
Let it go for at least an hour or up to 3 hours. Stir (and taste!) occasionally. Your house will smell amazing and you will be asked repeatedly when dinner will be ready.
Oh yes, they are going to be happy! Now boil up your pasta of choice.
Drain the cooked pasta and return it to the hot pan it cooked in. Add some of the bolognese and mix well.
Sprinkle in some grated Parmesan and mix it into the pasta. It’s important to me that you know that those are not my fingers. My husband was the cheese sprinkler. There, I feel better now. I bet he never knew he’d be a cheese sprinkler. Life is funny.
Transfer the pasta to your serving dish, sprinkle with additional Parmesan and dig in!
- Cooking spray
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 1 pound ground pork
- Olive oil, enough to generously coat pan
- 1 small white or yellow onion, diced
- 2 carrots, finely diced
- 2 ribs celery, finely diced
- 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 2 teaspoons salt, divided
- 1 tablespoon dried thyme
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- Freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 1 cup wine (a good hearty red or dry white)
- 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
- 2 (14 ounce) cans good quality whole Italian tomatoes
- 1 cup beef broth
- 1 cup whole milk
- Pasta of your choice
- Grated Parmesan cheese, for topping
Spray a large skillet with cooking spray and over medium heat, cook the ground beef and pork. Crush and stir with a large spoon till fully cooked, about 10 minutes. Drain grease from pan and set meat aside to use later.
Coat the bottom of a Dutch oven with a generous amount of olive oil. Place the pan over medium heat and add carrots, celery, onion, and parsley. Cook , stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, or until vegetables have softened but not browned. Add garlic and 1 teaspoon of salt. Stir well.
Add the cooked and drained meat to the vegetable mixture in the Dutch oven. Season mixture with another teaspoon of salt, a generous amount of fresh ground pepper, thyme, oregano, and nutmeg. Add wine, turn heat up to medium high and cook, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes. Push meat mixture to side and add tomato paste to the pan. Stir and mix the tomato paste into the meat mixture. Add both cans of whole tomatoes, breaking the tomatoes up with your hands as you add them to the pan. Stir well. Add beef broth and milk into pot and bring mixture almost to a boil then turn down heat to a very low simmer. Cook, uncovered, for 1 to 3 hours. Sauce will be richer and thicker if it cooks longer. Check and stir occasionally.
When ready to serve, boil pasta according to package directions. Drain and return to hot pan. Add desired amount of the bolognese and combine. Sprinkle in some grated Parmesan cheese and stir.
Transfer pasta bolognese to serving dish and sprinkle with additional Parmesan if desired.