Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Bolognese Sauce

I've posted a recipe for a quick marinara. But this is FAR different from marinara. Marinara is a simpler, thinner, tomato-based sauce (traditionally meatless, but can be optional); Bolognese is more complex, thick, chunky meat-based sauce... meat not optional. Sorry, without meat it's just not bolognese. If you don't want meat, by all means, you can always use this recipe as a tomato sauce without the meat (but then it's not bolognese), or you might opt just to make a simpler marinara.

Bolognese is most commonly served with tagliatelle noodles, which are long wide noodles- like lengths of ribbon. But this chunky meaty sauce is also good with rigatoni or any big noodle that the sauce can grab onto and be stabbed up with a fork :)

  • 1 medium Yellow Onion, finely diced (about 1 heaping cup)
  • 2-3 ribs of Celery, finely diced (about 1 cup)
  • 2 Carrots, finely diced (about 1 heaping cup)
  • 1 lb lean Ground Beef (at least 1 lb... bolognese is supposed to be a MEATY sauce- not a tomato sauce with a little meat in it.)
  • 3 cloves Garlic, minced (about 1 Tbsp)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 cup Dry Wine- I like to use red (either red or white would be fine; I've seen both used interchangeably in bolognese recipes)
  • 1 (28 oz) can Whole Plum Tomatoes
  • 1 (6 oz) can Tomato Paste
  • 1 teaspoon Sugar, either White Granulated or Brown Sugar would be fine
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of your favorite Italian Seasoning blend 
  • 1/4 teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
  • A dash of Nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup Fat Free Half & Half (traditionally whole milk or cream, but I like to substitute the half & half)

Dice the onion, celery and carrots as small as you can. Then place them in a food processor for a few seconds to mince them even further: 

(I suppose you could try using a blender for this if you don't have a food processor? I would definitely put the carrots in the bottom if you do that though)

Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed pan. Saut√© all your diced veggies for about 10 minutes until soft and fragrant- about 8-10 minutes. 

Add ground beef, minced garlic and 1/2 tsp salt. Break up beef with wooden spoon and stir to brown until meat is all cooked. About 5 minutes.

Add the cup of wine and stir in, scraping the bottom of the pan. Let it come to a simmer, stirring occasionally for about 5 minutes. 
Then add the can of whole tomatoes, including all liquid. 

Break up the tomatoes with your wooden spoon, and stir in the tomato paste, sugar, pepper, Italian seasonings, and nutmeg. 
Stir together well, and let it come to a bubbling simmer.

Turn the heat down, and allow to simmer for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours with no lid. Stirring occassionally to make sure it doesn't scorch on the bottom. 
*(This is why a heavy bottomed pan is important. If the pan is a thin/light material, the sauce will scorch easily onto the bottom of the pan so you would need to stir more frequently)
See how nicely it has thickened and how meaty and chunky it is:

After it has simmered and all the flavors have condensed together, turn off the heat and stir in the 1/2 cup of FF half & half. This gives it some rich, creamy depth and makes it a little more sauce-y again :)

Some Alteration Options:
  • Tomato: If you want your sauce a little more tomatoey, you can add another can of whole tomatoes, either a 14.5 oz can or another 28 oz can -depending on your preference, with its liquid. This would, however, require some additional simmering time. Or you can add a can of crushed tomatoes with your whole tomatoes.
  • Cream: If you want your sauce a little more saucey and/or creamy without adding too much tomato (to keep with the traditional bolognese fashion of little tomato), you can stir in more half and half (or whole milk or cream) at the end instead of just 1/2 cup. 
  • Meat: Traditionally, Bolognese uses chunks of Skirt Steak and pancetta so you can always go that route. I use lean ground beef to make it slightly healthier (and easier). Or you could make it even healthier by using lean ground Turkey. So now you've got the whole spectrum of meats to choose from.
  • Consistency: If you would like to make it a little more loose and saucey without adding extra tomatoes or cream, you can add a cup or so of beef stock before it simmers. This will definitely give more depth to the sauce while lightening up the consistency, and without diluting or adulterating the traditional flavors.

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