Monday, December 5, 2011

Weeknight Bolognese

Bolognese is a pasta sauce that usually takes hours and hours to make. It is slow-cooked to develop the flavors and to thicken the sauce. Thankfully Ina developed a bolognese sauce that is fitting for a weeknight. I adapted it to add onion and carrot (and I would have added celery but I didn't have any) to make it more like a traditional bolognese sauce, and I think the sweetness from the carrot helps to balance out the acidity of the tomatoes. Speaking of tomatoes, I highly recommend using San Marzano tomatoes if you can find them. They are more expensive but I think worth the extra cost. They just don't have the acidic taste that most canned tomatoes have. Also, don't leave out the wine, nutmeg, or cream. They are what turns this from a regular tomato sauce into a special bolognese sauce. 

Weeknight Bolognese
Servings: 6

1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 large yellow onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
1 lb. lean ground beef or sirloin
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tbsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 1/4 cups dry red wine, such as Pinot Noir, divided
2 tbsp. tomato paste
1 - 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes, preferably San Marzano

2 tsp. kosher salt
3/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves, chopped
1/4 cup heavy cream, at room temperature
3/4 lb. dried pasta
Parmesan cheese and extra fresh basil for topping

In a large skillet or dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions and carrot and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the ground beef, breaking apart with a spoon, and cook until nicely browned and cooked through. Drain off excess fat, if necessary. Add the garlic, oregano, and crushed red pepper, and cook for 1 minute longer.

Add 1 cup of wine to the skillet and scrape up any browned bits. Cook until the wine has reduced by half. Stir in the tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, salt, and pepper. Bring the sauce to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta according to the directions on the package.

To finish the sauce, stir in the nutmeg, basil, heavy cream, and remaining 1/4 cup of wine. Simmer for 10 minutes. Add the cooked pasta to the sauce and stir to combine. Top with grated parmesan cheese and extra basil for garnish. 

Source: adapted from Ina Garten

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