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The Spicy Honey loves, loves, loves Bolognese sauce.  And admittedly, I’ve never been particularly happy with my previous attempts.  They were just ho-hum.  This one…I’m very happy with, and I think you might be, too!  I think maybe the reason I wasn’t happy with my other attempts, is that I always used Italian sausage.  That’s what most recipes call for.  And since I’m not Italian, I don’t have a Nona to help me out here.  So, I looked at a number of recipes, took this and that for each one and this is what I came up with.  And since the pandemic is on our doorstep and we’re self-isolating, I needed to use what I had…ground pork and ground beef; with more pork than beef.  And I didn’t have any fresh basil, but I had pesto…why not?  I gotta’ tell you…this was good.  It was really good and it made a lot.  So we have several containers in the freezer for a rainy day…or a sunny day…or today!  Two cups was more than enough for two huge portions, with leftovers.  I have never added butter before, but Marcella Hazan does (did..may she rest in peace).  And I figured she might just know something about Bolognese.  I really like that addition (but of course, no picture of that addition…I was caught up in the moment, okay?); she was on to something.  It adds a creaminess and a richness to the finished sauce.  Most important of all, The Spicy Honey is a happy man.  Bolognese is his favorite pasta sauce, so he’s smiling!

This goes together relatively easily.  You brown the meats, add the veggies and cook together for a few minutes.  Now toss in the garlic, cook for about 1 minute;

then you add the bulk of the remaining ingredients, stir it well and simmer (uncovered, please) until the mixture is relatively thick…simmer, don’t boil.  It takes about and hour, more or less.  At the point, add the cream, the fresh basil, sugar and wine vinegar.  Simmer for a few minutes, turn off the heat and taste!  I found I needed to add the additional wine vinegar and sugar.  And I added some salt; it should be just slightly salty.  Pasta “pulls” salt from the sauce…think sponge!  I prefer to slightly over-salt the sauce, rather than add handfuls of salt to the cooking water.  There’s method to my madness.  I use the cooking water to make soup or bread, so I don’t want it overly salty.  And this works.  And it works well.  Put a couple of cups of sauce in a skillet, add the undercooked pasta, toss and add the butter.  Toss it again until the pasta is perfectly al dente, about 1 minute.  Of course, I have no pictures of the butter/pasta addition.  Serve immediately!

A note about the pasta…I used spaghetti.  I cooked it until it was just slightly pre-al dente.  Biet into a piece, the very center should still be bit hard…there should be a small, white dot.  That’s when I drain it and add it immediately to the simmering two-cup portion in the skillet.  Toss the pasta gently, until it was coated with sauce.  Toss in the 2 tablespoons butter.  Keep tossing until the butter was melted, about 60-90 seconds total!  I bit into a piece of the spaghetti and it was perfectly done and ready to plate.  Lots of freshly grated parmesan, a fork, good bread and wine.  Life is very good, indeed.

Damn Fine Bolognese Sauce

  • Servings: Makes about 8-9 cups
  • Difficulty: Moderate
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  • 3/4 pound ground pork
  • 1/2 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, shredded
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped celery (I use the heart with leaves)
  • 1/3 cup very finely chopped fresh fennel bulb
  • 8 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes (I used fire-roasted)
  • 1 28 oz. can whole tomatoes, squeezed with your hands
  • 3-4 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 4 teaspoons chicken bouillon powder
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced fresh oregano or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Add near the end of cooking:
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half
  • 1/4 cup chopped basil (or 1 tablespoon dried–add with other spices) see NOTE
  • 1-3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 2-3 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons finely minced fresh oregano
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Kosher salt (you may not need this–TASTE!!!)
  • For Serving:
  • Pasta cooked until not quite al dente (see NOTE)
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter ( 2 tablespoons/two cups finished sauce)
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese for serving

In a large heavy-bottomed pot (like a Dutch oven) set over medium-high heat, add the meats; cooked until slightly browned and almost done.  Add the onion, celery, fennel and carrots.  Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the onion is slightly translucent.  Add garlic; cook 30 more seconds. If you feel there’s significant grease, drain it off.

Add both tomatoes (with their juice), tomato paste, wine, herbs (both fresh and dried), and dry bouillon.  Simmer (uncovered) over low heat for 45-55 minutes, stirring occasionally (stir more often towards the end of cooking, as the mixture thickens).  The sauce should be reduced and quite thick.

Stir in half-and-half, fresh basil and additional oregano, the lesser amount of sugar and wine vinegar.  Cook an additional 2 minutes. Add the black pepper and taste.  You may need to use additional salt, pepper, sugar and vinegar.  If you wish, you may also add 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes.  I tend to like the sauce to be on the slightly salty side, as when you mix it with the pasta, the pasta will “pull” the salt from the sauce.

When ready to serve, place 2 cups sauce in a large skillet.  Add the slightly under-cooked pasta and toss.  Cook for about 30 seconds.  Add 2 tablespoons butter; continue to toss and cook until the pasta is JUST done, but still al dente, about 1 minute.  Serve immediately with plenty of freshly grated Parmesan cheese and good bread (garlic bread is nice!)

NOTE: For a vegetarian option, use one of the meat substitutes on the market and substitute vegetarian bouillon for the chicken.  If desired, chop onion, celery, fennel and carrot in your food processor. Pulse about 12 pulses or until finely chopped.  I didn’t have any fresh basil, so I used 3 tablespoons pesto; it worked well.

To Freeze:  If you wish to freeze the sauce, cool to room temperature, transfer to freezer-safe containers or freezer bags.  Remove as much air as possible, seal and label (with the date!).  Freeze for up to 3 months; thaw in the fridge overnight.

Damn Fine Bolognese Sauce Recipe©Marcia Lahens 2020.  All rights reserved.