I’m in love with Sundays. Sundays means most of my family is out doing something and the house is quiet. It means I get to blast music in the kitchen and zen out cooking something that takes hours and not feel guilty about occupying such a heavy traffic area of our house. I’ve craved Bolognese for some time now, rich all day simmered sauce of different meats, wines, spices and veggies originating in Bologna Italy. As much as I love to cook and eat vegetarian, I equally love my meats. I was a strict vegetarian for about 2 years in my 20s and still wonder to this day how I had the will power to say no to a burger every so often.
This past Sunday, I woke up earlier than usual, ran to the grocery store and was home by 11 to start this kick ass sauce. The first ingredient to any successful recipe is the perfect mind-set. You have to be calm, happy, zen and excited to see what you’ll produce at the end. I had my ingredients laid out, my laptop fully charged and on the kitchen table blasting tunes as loud as I please, I wore my most comfortable sarong, hair tied in a bun and every single window open to let in as much sunlight as possible. This was my Sunday.
The act of turning a few simple ingredients into something so heartwarmingly incredible is almost hedonistic. I feel guilty and aroused at the same time, I feel like I shouldn’t indulge this much but would hate myself if I didn’t. I liken food to a dirty love affair, I’m not the only one am I? During the act of you don’t think twice but it’s afterwards when you replay the scenes in your head that you begin to blush and feel like a dirty girl for the way you acted. I feel giddy, I’m a craver and I always want more. I wanted more of this Bolognese even after eating it for two days that I had to save myself and give the rest to my sister. Like a great meat balls, Bolognese is typically made from ground beef, veal and pancetta (or bacon), I took a slightly different route and did mine with ground beef, pork and hot Italian Sausages. As always I double or even triple my recipes when cooking.
1/2 lbs Ground Beef
1/2 lbs Ground Pork
1/2 lbs Hot Italian Sausages, casing removed (can use mild or sweet)
1 1/2 cup Onions, small dice
1 cup Carrots, small dice
1 cup Celery, small dice
5 Garlic Cloves, finely chopped
1 12oz Canned Whole Tomatoes, crushed by hand including juice
1 6oz can Tomato Paste
1 cup Milk
1 cup Red Wine
1 tbsp Dried Thyme
1 tbsp Dried Oregano
2 tsp Dried Basil
3 Bay Leaves
1 tbsp Olive Oil
unsalted Beef Broth or Water
1 lbs Spaghetti
1 cup Fresh Basil Leaves, torn or chopped
1/2 cup Parmesan Cheese, grated
1. Over medium heat olive oil, add beef, pork and sausages. Add a pinch of salt, brown and let fat render, about 15 min, remove to a towel lined plate and set aside. Marvel at all the sexy brown bits you have at the bottom of the pan and know that it’s all flavor baby!
2. Remove all but 2 tbsp of fat from pot. Add carrots, onions, celery and a pinch of salt. Make your life easier and just run the veggies a few times on pulse in a food processor, sometimes I just don’t have the mind-set for small dices! Cook the veggies down. When I say cook down, I mean REALLY COOK DOWN! about 15-20 mins, be patient. At first your veggies will steam and release liquid and pick up all those meaty brown bits, then they will begin to form their own brown bits at the bottom of the pot, this is what you want, BROWN BITS!
4. Time for the “Smell Goods”! Add thyme, oregano, basil, lots of black pepper and a few pinches of salt. Don’t forget to crush your dried herbs between your fingers to help release their oils. Stir and toast those spices for another 1-2 mins.
5. Turn up heat to high, add red wine and allow to reduce to almost nothing, about 4-5 mins. I know I said a cup of red wine, but secretly I used like half a bottle. I had a fantastic Cabernet on hand, always use the same wine you plan on drinking in your cooking, it’s a good excuse to buy 2 bottles. 😉
6. I like to buy WHOLE Tomatoes in a can and crush them by hand, but if you’re so inclined to not be messy like me, you can use crushed tomatoes. Juice and all, add tomatoes, milk and bay leaves. Stir and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to simmer. Let simmer uncovered for at least 1 1/2 hours to 4-5 hours. During your simmer time, as the liquid evaporates, add 1-2 cups of water or beef broth, stirring every so often so the bottom doesn’t burn. It’s all about cooking that meat down until it’s super soft.
I let mine go about 4 hours. I would’ve kept going but my brothers were super hungry and kept asking every 15 mins if it was done yet. BROTHERS!
7. Cook spaghetti or pasta of choice according to package directions in salted boiling water. Save 1 cup of pasta water.
8. Over medium heat, remove half of Bolognese and set aside. Toss in hot spaghetti to remaining Bolognese, add pasta water. Cook until water is mostly absorbed. Add fresh basil and Parmesan cheese. Toss again and serve immediately with reserve Bolognese on top.
9. Fall in heads over heels, truly madly deeply, can’t live with out each other, over the moon, final countdown kinda love with your fat plate of goodness. Pour yourself a glass of wine and relax. It’s Sunday after all.