Foodieobsessed's Blog

Pasta Bolognese

It’s funny how growing up we can swear up and down that we don’t like a particular item. I remember my Grandma would make bean soup at least twice a winter. It was her home cooking comfort food. I HATED IT. I would complain, moan, and groan everytime I came home from school and saw it on the stove. The only factor that saved absolute meltdown from those beans was her cornbread. I would love that stuff up. But today is not about beans, it’s about bolognese.

Since my Grandma passed away I have tried desparately to reclaim her flavors. She wasn’t one to write down her secrets because everytime she would make something it was different (something I am guilty of as well). Her pasta sauce was similiar to that. Sometimes it had hamburger, sometimes pork, sometimes beef that she’d cook until it shredded, and sometimes vegetables. Sometimes there was wine, sometimes stock. . . it was one of those rich, deep, super cooked sauces. Growing up I wasn’t always appreciative of those deep flavors. Maybe it was too herbacious for my young palette, but since she’s been gone it is something that I strive for in my bolognese.

The first time I made Anne Burrell’s pasta bolognese I honestly believed I’d NEVER EVER make it again. It took two hours of stirring just to get it “crusty” enough for Anne’s liking. It was tons of stirring and then SIMMERING forever. I had it ALL over the stovetop (understandable, most of my food ends up that way) and I was sick and tired of it before I had even tasted it. But once I took that first bite–this sauce is the closest I’ve ever come to my Grandma Shirley’s deep, dark, pasta sauce. It is delicious. It is something you want to take a full Sunday to do but it is SO worth it. Tonight we are having the long lost last package of this sauce from the last batch I made. It freezes beautifully and honestly, if you are going to spend 6+ hours making something you better have some lefts overs. Am I right?

Here is Anne’s recipe with my notes. Honestly, just take the time and do it! Like risotto it is just as much about the process as it is the actual food.

Pasta Bolognese – Anne Burrell

  • 1 large onion or 2 small, cut into 1-inch dice
  • 2 large carrots, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 3 ribs celery, cut into 1-inch dice
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for the pan
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 pounds ground chuck, brisket or round or combination
  • 2 cups tomato paste
  • 3 cups hearty red wine
  • Water
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 bunch thyme, tied in a bundle (I have substituted dry)
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • —–

    In a food processor, puree onion, carrots, celery, and garlic into a coarse paste. In a large pan over medium heat, coat pan with oil. Add the pureed veggies and season generously with salt. Bring the pan to a medium-high heat and cook until all the water has evaporated and they become nice and brown, stirring frequently, about 15 to 20 minutes. Be patient, this is where the big flavors develop.

    Add the ground beef and season again generously with salt. BROWN THE BEEF! Brown food tastes good. Don’t rush this step. Cook another 15 to 20 minutes.

    Add the tomato paste and cook until brown about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the red wine. Cook until the wine has reduced by half, another 4 to 5 minutes.

    Add water to the pan until the water is about 1 inch above the meat. Toss in the bay leaves and the bundle of thyme and stir to combine everything. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer, stirring occasionally. As the water evaporates you will gradually need to add more, about 2 to 3 cups at a time. Don’t be shy about adding water during the cooking process, you can always cook it out. This is a game of reduce and add more water. This is where big rich flavors develop. If you try to add all the water in the beginning you will have boiled meat sauce rather than a rich, thick meaty sauce. Stir and TASTE frequently. Season with salt, if needed (you probably will). Simmer for 3 1/2 to 4 hours.

    During the last 30 minutes of cooking, bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat to cook the spaghetti. Pasta water should ALWAYS be well salted. Salty as the ocean! TASTE IT! If your pasta water is under seasoned it doesn’t matter how good your sauce is, your complete dish will always taste under seasoned. When the water is at a rolling boil add the spaghetti and cook for 1 minute less than it calls for on the package. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water.

    While the pasta is cooking remove 1/2 of the ragu from the pot and reserve.

    Drain the pasta and add to the pot with the remaining ragu. Stir or toss the pasta to coat with the sauce. Add some of the reserved sauce, if needed, to make it about an even ratio between pasta and sauce. Add the reserved pasta cooking water and cook the pasta and sauce together over a medium heat until the water has reduced.Toss or stir vigorously. Divide the pasta and sauce into serving bowls or 1 big pasta bowl. Top with grated Parmigiano. Serve immediately.

    IMG_0131(This was my dinner! Garlic parmesan knots, some sauteed kale with garlic, and pasta bolognese. YUM!)


    Anne gives really great instructions in this recipe. I think that one of the biggest tips that I take from it is about SALT. We are so scared of salt, especially with health concerns like high blood pressure and all of the crud that we put in our system. But honestly if you are eating high quality delicious homemade food and using kosher salt or sea salt it is OK to not worry as much. Really, go crazy with it. Because water is such a HUGE part of this sauce you honestly do need to season it liberally. This makes a HUGE pot of sauce and I usually have enough to freeze two batches and still sauce the pound of pasta called for. Do not add the cheese to the sauce you intend to freeze.


    Trackbacks & Pingbacks

    1. Fall Chili Cook Off « Foodieobsessed's Blog pingbacked on 8 years, 8 months ago
    2. Menu 1/20/2010-1/26/2010 « Foodieobsessed's Blog pingbacked on 8 years, 5 months ago


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