Worth the Wait [Pasta Bolognese]

I know what you’re thinking. What in the name of holy hell is this maniac doing standing over a hot stove for 6 hours in this heat? Perhaps she dipped into the Chardonnay a little too early in the day [and really, what would be so terrible about that?] While often that would ring true, it wasn’t the case this time. It was a recipe I tried a few months back and didn’t post until now. So it’s not that I’m crazy… I’m just lazy. Which is so much better, right? Right?

This dish is everything a Sunday dinner should be. You get up, go to the market, spend hours working on it and reap the rewards when that first bite, dripping with rich, brown, meaty flavour hits your tongue. It’s the exact sort of dinner I crave, not only to eat but to cook, when I have days to myself. Even if you’re not totally gung-ho on spending 6 hours in front of a stove… I do so hope you’ll give this a go on a crisp day in November. There is nothing like it to warm the soul.

I happened to make it on a day when Allan wasn’t home. So I ate it alone. A LOT of it. And I can’t say that I enjoyed it any less. It makes incredible leftovers, and freezes perfectly. We enjoyed a lasagna bolognese later in the month…and I highly recommend you try the same. Just replace your regular meat sauce with this.

I got this recipe from chef Ann Burrell of The Food Network. Her recipes, much like her, are always big and bold and full of deep, layered flavour.

Bolognese Sauce
adapted from Chef Anne Burrell 

1 large onion, diced
2 large carrots, peeled and diced
3 ribs of celery
3 large cloves of garlic, rough chopped
Olive oil, enough to coat your pot/pan
3lbs lean ground beef [I used chuck and round]
2 cups tomato paste
3 cups full-bodied red wine [I used a shiraz/cab]
Water, whatever you use to drink is fine.
Couple bay leaves
1 bunch of Thyme
kosher salt

1lbs (approx) spaghetti, spaghettini, linguine
1/2C-1C fresh grated Parmiggiano-Reggiano
Good finishing olive oil (optional)

Start by pureeing the carrot, onion, garlic, and celery in a food processor until it becomes a paste a little thicker than baby food. Heat 1-2 tbsp of olive oil in a heavy bottomed pan [like a dutch oven] over meadium-high heat. Once the oil has started to ripple, add in the vegetable paste and a few generous pinches of coarse salt and stir frequently until all the liquid from the vegetables is gone. Be patient with this step as it’s important to the overall flavour of the sauce. You want it to be fairly browned before you move on to your next step. This should take about 20 minutes.

Add the ground beef and season again with a few pinches of salt. Stir and break up the meat and then let it cook for another 15-20 minutes, stirring every so often. This is another chance to get really brown (rich) flavour in your sauce.

Add the tomato paste and stir for a bout 5 minutes until it has brown slightly with the rest of the veggies/meat. Add the red wine and stir, scrapping any stuck on bits from the bottom of the pan, until the wine has reduced by about half. It should take about another 5 minutes for this to happen.

Add the bay leaves and thyme to the pot. Add water to the pan until it reaches 1 inch above the meat. Give everything a good stir, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and stir occasionally.

You will need to add roughly 3 more cups of water throughout the cooking process (3.5-4 hours). DO NOT add all the water at once unless you want a boiled meat sauce. Add 1/2 - 1C water at a time and just until it’s slightly above the meat line. Be sure to reduce the water until very little is left before you add more. This really helps develop the flavours. Taste often and SEASON WITH SALT!!! It will more than likely need more salt as it cooks.

When you have about 30 more minutes of cooking time, bring a large pot of water to a boil and season well with salt (it should taste like the ocean!). Add your pasta and cook until it has slightly more bite than al dente. Spaghetti should take about 6-7 minutes. Reserve 1/2C of the pasta water before you strain it.

Remove half the sauce and reserve (let cool and freeze, this will be your leftover sauce).

Add the pasta to the remaining sauce until it’s a 1:1 (pasta:sauce) ratio. Add the 1/2C of reserved pasta water and cook over medium heat until the water has reduced. Add your Parmesan and a drizzle of god olive oil to finish.

This sauce deserves to be served with a damned good bottle of wine. And some really awesome people to share it with. After all, food always tastes better that way!