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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.
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!
- 1 pound 90% lean ground beef
- 1 pound ground pork (not Italian Sausage)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small white or yellow onion diced
- 1 cup peeled and diced carrot
- 2 ribs celery diced
- ¼ cup finely chopped Italian parsley
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 2 teaspoons salt divided
- 1 tablespoon dried thyme
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- freshly ground pepper to taste
- 1 cup red wine (a good hearty red like Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, or a blend)
- 6 ounces tomato paste
- 2 (28 ounce) cans good quality Italian whole tomatoes (look for San Marzano tomatoes)
- 1 cup low sodium beef broth
- 1 cup whole milk
- dry pasta of your choice (rigatoni, penne, spaghetti, and linguine are all great choices)
- grated Parmesan cheese, for topping
- Spray a large Dutch oven with cooking spray and place over MEDIUM heat. Add the ground beef and pork. Crush and stir with a large spoon to break up until fully cooked, about 10 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the cooked meat to a dish and set aside. Drain the grease from the Dutch oven.
- Add olive oil to the empty Dutch oven and place it over MEDIUM heat. Add the carrots, celery, onion, and parsley. Cook , stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, or until the vegetables have softened but not browned. Add the garlic and 1 teaspoon of salt. Stir well.
- Add the cooked and drained meat to the Dutch oven with the vegetable mixture. Season mixture with the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt, a generous amount of black pepper, thyme, oregano, and nutmeg. Add the wine, turn heat up to MEDIUM-HIGH and cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and stir it into the meat mixture. Add both cans of whole tomatoes, breaking the tomatoes up with the back of a spoon as you stir them into the meat mixture (don't worry, they'll soften and be easier to break up later). Add the beef broth and milk and bring the mixture almost to a boil then turn down the heat to LOW. 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 to a serving dish and sprinkle with additional Parmesan, if desired.