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January 23 2017
This is about...
Weeknight BOLOGNESE...My Way---YUM!
Week night bolognese
        I'M NOT SURE WHY I SO LOOK FORWARD TO ALL OF THOSE FOOD MAGAZINES that arrive weekly in my mailbox. I'M SO EAGER TO FLIP THROUGH THOSE PAGES, just waiting for something delicious to surprise me on the next turn. But lately, I'm NOT so thrilled. Should I keep all of these subscriptions going?
       Another one just arrived, the Jan-Feb. 2017 issue of Cooks Magazine. I did my usual scan and "WEEKNIGHT BOLOGNESE" caught my attention. Traditionally, this sauce takes HOURS to make. But THIS VERSION CUT IT BACK TO a very serviceable 60 MINUTES.
       Now COOKS has a habit of adding some UNUSUAL TWISTS to their recipes, with what I think, are varied results. This recipe was no exception. Beef stock was reduced from 4 cups to 2 to add beefy flavor. A food processor was used to finely chop the pancetta and veggies. But YUCK, BAKING SODA AND WATER IN THE GROUND MEAT? to tenderize it? You lost me there. Plus, IT DRIVES ME CRAZY when a recipe says "one onion." How BIG is the onion? One onion can yield anywhere from 1 cup to 2 1/2 cups, chopped. So? I guessed. Finally, only 3 measly tablespoons of tomato paste?--nowhere near enough. STILL BEING A LITTLE CURIOUS, and since the wintertime is my meatballs and meat sauce season, I WAS GAME.
        I followed the recipe to the letter. And what I ended up with was A GREASY, SALTY POT OF GROUND MEAT with almost no tomato flavor. THAT WAS A BUMMER. But.... I had a lot of expensive grass-fed meat, parmesan, red wine and pancetta in this pot. I WASN'T GOING TO THROW IT ALL OUT. So, I went into my "LET'S SEE HOW I CAN MAKE IT BETTER" mode. More tomato paste and tomato sauce added the required tomato flavor it was missing, And, adding a touch of honey and cream at the end created a silky, slightly sweet sauce that ID BE HAPPY TO EAT ANY WEEKNIGHT. THANKS COOKS! for getting the ball rolling. OK, MAYBE I WON'T cancel my subscriptions JUST YET.

LESSONS Learned:
1. Just because it's a published recipe, doesn't mean it's gonna be great.
2. The original recipe called for 93% lean ground beef. This is not a diet food, so I say go for some fat in the meat. I used half 80% ground beef and half ground pork-- bork. Meatloaf mix (beef, veal and pork) is a good choice too. And I found the meat to be tender without that baking soda trick.
3. If you've got one, a food processor is a great tool for this recipe.
4. A potato masher makes easy work of breaking up the ground meats--got this tip from Rachel Ray.
5. Don't be afraid of the bottom of the pot getting very brown. Just make sure to rotate the pot every time you stir, so the browning evenly covers the bottom. All of those browned bits will disappear and flavor the sauce when the wine is added.
6. I prefer low sodium or no salt versions of the tomatoes and beef broth, if they are available.

Weeknight Bolognese
(inspired by Cooks Magazine Jan-Feb. 2017--revised by me)

4 cups beef broth, preferably unsalted or low sodium
4 oz. pancetta, 1/8th inch slices, chopped coarsely
1 medium onion, chopped into about 3/4 to 1 inch pieces, about 1 1/4cups
1 large carrot, chopped into about 3/4 to 1 inch pieces, about 3/4 cup
1 large celery rib, chopped into about 3/4 to 1 inch pieces, about 3/4 cup
1 1/2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
one 6-7 oz. can tomato paste, (My organic paste comes in a 7 oz. jar)
1 cup dry red wine
1 cup tomato sauce (8 oz. can), or crushed tomatoes
3 Tablespoons grated parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
1/4 cup heavy cream
2-3 Tablespoons mild honey
1/2 cup reserved pasta cooking water

Make the sauce:
       In a large saucepan, bring the broth to a boil and cook over high heat until reduced to 2 cups, about 15 minutes.
       In the bowl of a food processor, add the pancetta and pulse 15-20 times. Add the onion, carrot and celery and pulse 12-15 times more until finely chopped and almost a paste-like consistency, scraping down sides as needed.
       Heat the butter and oil in a large heavy pot or Dutch oven over a medium flame. Add the pancetta-vegetable mixture and the 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Spread the mixture evenly over the bottom of the pot and cook, stirring every few minutes until very browned dark bits form on the bottom of the pot, about 9-12 minutes. If the mixture is browning unevenly, rotate the pot.
       Stir in the tomato paste and cook until paste becomes rust colored and the bottom of the pot is dark brown, about 2-3 minutes. Again rotating the pot, if necessary.
       Add the ground meat and using a wooden spoon break, or a potato masher, the meat into pieces no larger than 1/4". Cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
       Stir in the wine, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pot. Turn the heat up to medium-high and cook until completely evaporated, about 5-7 minutes. Stir in the broth, tomato sauce and parmesan. Cover and reduce the heat to a low simmer for 30 minutes.
       Stir in the cream and the honey, and cook another 2 minutes. Taste for salt and pepper.

To serve:
       Cook 1 lb. pasta of your choice, I like linguini or rigatoni. FYI, Bolognese sauce is traditionally paired with tagliatelle. Cook it al dente, reserving an 1/2 cup of the cooking water. Add the drained pasta to the Bolognese pot, and if it needs to be thinned out, add some of the pasta water and combine well. Serve with extra parmesan.

MAKES 4-6 servings. YUM!
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