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Sunday Bolognese

2011 November 3
by Mrs. FoodieLawyer

This is one of those posts where I should have made sure I had some leftovers to eat, because by the time I finish editing the photos and writing the post and recipe, I know I will be craving this dish in a major way.  It’s seriously that good.  By far the best bolognese we’ve ever had — in a restaurant or otherwise — if we do say so ourselves (and we do.)  There isn’t enough hyperbole in our collective vocabulary to adequately describe how much we love this dish.  Although this is not a quick recipe (which is why we call it “Sunday” bolognese), the extra time and multiple steps are well worth the resulting complex layers of flavor.  Make some this weekend — you won’t be disappointed!

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The ingredients include pancetta, ground beef, pork and veal (or whatever combination of ground meat is available), celery, carrots, onion, garlic, olive oil, chicken stock, white wine, tomato paste and heavy cream.

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Heat about a tablespoon of olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat, then add the diced pancetta and cook until the fat is rendered and the pancetta starts to get crispy — about 5 minutes.  (Please excuse the sad state of the bottom of our much-used Dutch oven — fortunately the dark stuff doesn’t come off in the food we’re cooking, but unfortunately it doesn’t come off with scrubbing and dishwashing either.)

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The next step is to add the meat to the Dutch oven and cook it in the fat rendered from the pancetta.  We used a combination of ground beef, pork and veal — about 1.5 pounds ground beef and 1/2 pound each of pork and veal.  Although not required, using multiple different kinds of meat adds to the complexity of the finished dish.  Since our local grocery store didn’t have ground veal or pork, we bought these meats intact and ground them ourselves.  After almost a year of monthly Charcutepalooza challenges, grinding meat at home is no big deal.  (But clean-up of the KitchenAid will always be gross to me.  It is raw meat after all.)

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Cook the ground meat over medium-high heat until browned — about 7-10 minutes.  Stir often so the meat browns evenly.

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While the meat cooks, chop up the carrots, onion and celery and mince the garlic.

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Remove the browned meat and rendered fat/juices to a bowl.  Spoon some of the meat juices back into the Dutch oven to use for cooking the veggies.  Depending on how lean the meat is, you may need to spoon off more of the fat (and discard it) from the browned meat, so that the bolognese won’t be greasy.

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Cook the veggies over medium-high heat, stirring often, until they are softened and translucent — about 5-7 minutes.

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Stir in the tomato paste and cook for about a minute.

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Then add the wine and cook for another 1-2 minutes.  Adding these ingredients separately and letting them cook for a couple of minutes on their own allows their flavors to develop in layers.

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Add the browned meat (with some of the juices), a little dried thyme and a cup of chicken stock to the Dutch oven.  Stir it all together and bring the mixture to a simmer.  Reduce the heat to low and cook the sauce, covered, for at least 1.5 hours (and up to all day.)  We cooked ours for about 2.5 hours.

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Check on the sauce occasionally and add more chicken stock if it appears too dry.  (The longer you cook it, the more you may need to check it and add stock.)

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After at least 1.5 hours, season the sauce with a generous pinch each of salt and pepper.  Continue cooking the sauce on low, uncovered, until much of the liquid cooks off — about 30 more minutes.

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Sauce that cooks all afternoon on a Sunday deserves homemade pasta.  This bolognese in particular deserves a wide noodle.  So Dan whipped up a batch of pappardelle.  (If you’ve never done it, making fresh pasta at home is a lot easier than it may seem.)  You could also buy some fresh pasta — just look for noodles with a lot of surface area to soak up all the amazing bolognese flavors.

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Almost there!  Add a couple tablespoons of heavy cream to the bolognese and cook the sauce on low for 2-3 more minutes.  Then taste the sauce (finally!) and continue adding salt and pepper (mostly salt) and tasting until it tastes juuuust right.

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Boil the pasta in salted water for about 2 minutes (fresh pasta cooks a lot faster than dried pasta.)

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Add a couple of big spoonfuls of sauce to the pasta and cook on the very lowest setting for about 2 minutes to allow the pasta to absorb the bolognese flavors.

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Spoon more sauce over the noodles, garnish with grated parmesan and serve.  We post a lot of our favorite dishes here on Foodie Lawyer (nothing but the best for you guys!), and probably use the word “favorite” a little too often.  But this bolognese really is one of our new all-time favorites.  It’s rich and hearty with a smoothness from the cream and the pasta.  My descriptions and the photos simply do not do it justice — we’re going to have to insist you try it for yourself.  Now I’m off to punch my Thursday dinner in the face for not being Sunday Bolognese.

Sunday Bolognese

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 ounces pancetta, diced
  • 2-3 pounds ground meat (mostly beef but add veal and/or pork if you have it)
  • 2 celery ribs, finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (6 oz.) can tomato paste
  • 1 cup white wine
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 cup chicken stock (plus additional as needed)
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • salt & pepper

Directions:

  1. Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat, then add the pancetta and cook until the fat is rendered and the pancetta begins to brown — about 5 minutes.  Add the ground meat and cook, stirring often, until the meat is nicely browned — about 7-10 minutes.  Remove the meat and rendered fat/juices to a bowl.  Spoon some of the rendered fat/juices back into the Dutch oven.  You may need to spoon off (and discard) more fat to keep the bolognese from being too greasy.
  2. Add the celery, carrots, onion and garlic to the Dutch oven and cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until softened and translucent — about 5-7 minutes.  Add the tomato paste and cook for about 1 minute.  Add the wine and cook for another 1-2 minutes.
  3. Add the meat (with accumulated juices) back to the Dutch oven.  Add the thyme and chicken stock and bring the mixture to a simmer.  Reduce the heat to low, cover the Dutch oven and cook for at least 1.5 hours and up to all day.  While it cooks, check and stir the bolognese occasionally and add more chicken stock if the sauce appears to be too dry.
  4. After at least 1.5 hours, add a generous pinch of salt and pepper.  Continue cooking on low, uncovered, until much of the liquid cooks off — about 30 more minutes.  Add the heavy cream and cook for another few minutes, then add additional salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Serve the bolognese over wide-noodle pasta such as (pappardelle, fettuccine or tagliatelle) and garnish with grated parmesan cheese.

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6 Responses leave one →
  1. Dad permalink
    November 4, 2011

    And now I will be taking your mother out for Italian at lunch! It won’t be as good, but after seeing this, we just have to. And we will be making this at home as soon as possible. Luv me some Bolognese!

    • November 4, 2011

      Thanks Dad! You guys really should try this — all (most) hyperbole aside, it really was one of the best pasta sauces we’ve ever had!

  2. Paula permalink
    November 8, 2011

    Umm…Yum. Looks delicious. We’ll have to try it–though our attempts at making our own pasta have failed miserably. We may need a Foodie Lawyer pasta making class to help us out!!

  3. June 3, 2012

    You guys are fantastic. I’ve been learning a ton and having a great time following you and your blog. It’s Sunday monring, and I’m suddenly very hungry for some pasta.

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