Sunday, May 17, 2015

Pasta with Bolognese Sauce

Bolognese is a meat-based sauce cooked low and slow with a touch of tomato (i.e., the tomato is not the star). Onion, celery and carrot are first sweated in olive oil, then ground beef and/or pork is added and sautéed. Some crushed tomatoes and a bit of milk constitute the sauce, along with other classic additions such as pancetta, wine, and nutmeg. The sauce is simmered for several hours until it is thick and rich and ready to serve over a broad, flat pasta like fettuccine, pappardelle or tagliatelle or in a lasagna.

I stray from the traditional in that I like to add some minced garlic and fresh herbs (a small amount of parsley and sage) and use bacon instead of pancetta. The first time I made this dish I used ground beef only - moral of the story is that you really need to use a blend of ground beef and ground pork, or else the meat will taste kinda dry on the mouth regardless of the fat content of your beef. Also, you can use either red or white wine - both work equally well in this recipe.

1/4 cup olive oil
2 lbs. ground beef
1 lb. ground pork
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper

2 tbsp. unsalted butter
6 slices thick cut bacon, finely chopped

1 onion, finely minced
2 carrots, finely chopped (about 2 cups)
4 stalks celery, finely chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
1 tbsp. minced fresh sage
2 bay leaves

1 1/2 cups white or red wine
1 cup whole milk

2 tbsp. tomato paste
28-oz. can crushed San Marzano (or other) tomatoes

1/8 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. black pepper

1 lb. cooked pasta (fettuccine, tagliatelle or pappardelle)

Grated Parmesan cheese

1. Heat the olive oil in a saute pan until hot. Add the ground beef and pork and cook until no longer pink. Season with 1 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper. Set aside.

2. In a large stock pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter over medium-low heat and add the chopped bacon. Cook until the fat has rendered but the bacon is not browned, about 5 minutes.

3. Add the chopped onion, carrot, celery, garlic, parsley, sage and bay leaves. Cook about 10 minutes or until the veggies are soft but not browned.

4. Turn the heat up to medium high. Add the cooked ground meat, tomato paste, milk and wine and cook until the liquid has mostly evaporated.

5. Add the crushed tomatoes with their juice. Fill the tomato can with water and add that to the pot along with an extra 1 cup of water. Stir in 1/8 tsp. nutmeg, 1 tsp. salt, 1 tbsp. sugar, and 1/4 tsp. black pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce to low heat and cook 2-3 hours until the sauce has reduced and become very thick. Skim off excess oil.

6. In the meantime, cook your pasta of choice, drain, and set aside (you can coat the pasta with a drizzle of olive oil to keep it from sticking together).

7. Taste the sauce and re-season as needed. Plate the pasta in serving bowls and top with the sauce. Sprinkle the pasta with grated Parmesan.

Chopped onion, carrot, celery, minced sage, garlic, and bay leaves.

Saute the ground beef and pork in the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and set aside. 

6 slices of thick-cut bacon, finely chopped.

Saute the bacon in the butter over medium low heat about 5 minutes. 

Add the onion, celery, carrot, garlic, parsley, sage and bay leaves.

If using whole canned tomatoes, place in a bowl and break up the tomatoes with your fingers. Fill the empty can with water to add to the sauce.

Add the ground meat, tomato paste, milk and wine. Cook until most of the liquid has evaporated.

Add the crushed tomatoes, the can of tomato water and an additional 1 cup of water, nutmeg, salt, sugar and pepper. 

Simmer for 2-3 hours or until the sauce is thick and nicely reduced.

Serve over pasta with grated parmesan cheese. 

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