Weeknight Bolognese

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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, or skip this step using the Better than Bouillon mixture.
       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 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!

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. 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.
5. I prefer low sodium or no salt versions of the tomatoes and beef broth, if they are available.