Aug 18 2011
It’s time to toot my own horn.
When the end of the heat wave seemed near, I had a craving. I wanted cool weather comfort food, and only pasta bolognese would do. I suppose Ina is also partly to blame, since I had just watched her episode for Weeknight Bolognese, and pasta just sounded GOOD.
A quick weeknight version sounded interesting, but I had the time to devote to cooking. I didn’t need to get dinner on the table in less than an hour. In my world, a good meat sauce is worth the time and effort. So I took a spin on the Internet, and checked out many, many recipes to see how they compared to my own meat sauce.
I noticed a few things. I noticed most recipes used bacon, which I just happened to have some of. They also incorporated heavy cream, of which I also happened to have some of. Both those ingredients really, really needed to get used soon, so I decided to throw them in.
To make a thicker sauce, I processed the veggies in my food processor (I must apologize, as their pureed appearance isn’t the prettiest) before browning them in olive oil. I then added the chopped up bacon and let that render and brown before I added the beef to brown.
Because more traditional recipes tended to use a dry white wine, I figured the time had come to dispose of a partial bottle of pinot grigio that had been hanging out in the fridge all summer. It all went into the pot until the wine cooked off. Next I added cans of San Marzanos and tomato paste. Italian seasoning, a bay leaf, and of course, salt and pepper rounded out the flavors, along with several hours of cooking time, and a generous sprinkling of shredded grana padana. Combined with some gourmet garlic & parsley fettuccinne I received for Christmas, I had a meal that was so good, I actually told people it was the best pasta dish I’ve ever had in my life. If you’ve read this blog for awhile, you are aware of my love affair with fettuccine alfredo, so calling something else the best is high praise indeed.
I don’t know if it was the bacon, the cream, the long cooking time, or the cheese, but everything just came together that evening in my kitchen. The meat was melt-in-your-mouth tender, the sauce had a hint of smoky bacon flavor, combined with rich, cheesy goodness.
I have to say, thank goodness for blogging. It’s taught me to make notations in the kitchen anytime I cook or bake something new, so regardless of the result, I can revisit my ingredients and technique. That way, I can either do it again, or try to fix what didn’t work. This one I hope to do again and again. One big secret I realized when I heated it for leftovers the following day – don’t be stingy with the cheese!
My Favorite Bolognese
1 medium yellow onion, peeled
1 carrot, peeled
5-6 cloves garlic
5 large button mushrooms
3 slices bacon, diced
1 pound (455 grams) ground chuck
salt & pepper
3/4 – 1 cup (177 – 237 mL) dry white wine
28 ounce can (795 grams) whole tomatoes (prefer San Marzanos)
6 ounces (170 grams) tomato paste (prefer Organic)
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1-2 tablespoons sugar (to taste)
1 cup (237 mL) heavy cream
1 1/2 cups shredded parmesan or grana padana
Pour about a tablespoon or two of olive oil in the bottom of a large pot or Dutch oven. Heat over medium.
Give a rough chop to the onion and carrot, place in food processor fitted with S blade. Smash the garlic cloves and remove skins, add to processor. Clean mushrooms (remove stems if desired), add to processor. Whiz until pureed.
Add pureed veggies to heated oil and brown. Add the bacon, brown. Add ground chuck, breaking it up to allow better browning. Brown beef on all sides, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add wine to deglaze the pan. Cook until liquid has evaporated.
Add tomatoes with juices, tomato paste, Italian seasoning, thyme, bay leaf, and 1 tablespoon sugar (to offset the acidic taste from the canned tomatoes). Simmer, partially covered, for 2 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally, adjusting the seasoning as necessary. If need be, add the other tablespoon of sugar.
Add heavy cream and cook over very low heat for 30 minutes. Stir in cheese.* Toss with cooked pasta.
*If not serving all at once, hold off on adding the cheese. Spoon sauce into individual bowls and add desired amount of cheese. Add cooked pasta, and toss each individual serving. Add an extra scoop of sauce and cheese on top of tossed pasta.