When You Want Something Besides Hamburger…Bolognese Sauce!

I bought two 1-lb packs of organic ground beef over the weekend because I was with Ken and he was rushing me.  I buy organic ground beef because my friend Linda mentioned at one of the Mommy Dinners, the video circulating the internet about “pink slime.”  Ew.  That did it for me.  I don’t cook much with ground beef anyway, primarily for hamburgers, bolognese sauce or meatballs, but after I saw the video, I made the move to organic ground beef.

Last night, I made the Salisbury steaks with mushroom sauce– a true comfort food.  I’d never made it for my family  (they always want hamburgers), but I had no buns and was not about to go out in the cold when I could make a meal with what I had on hand.  Today, I decided I would make bolognese sauce.  I usually follow the technique in the Anne Burrell recipe, but I only had one-third as much meat, so I would have to improvise on the amount of ingredients.

I like this sauce because of the deep flavors developed through thorough browning of the mirepoix, brown beef and tomato paste.  I also love the fact it’s made solely from tomato paste– no big 28 oz cans of tomatoes to open.  Lastly, there’s no milk; you could add it at the end if you really miss it in your bolognese, but I like the deep wine flavors to come through unadulterated.

Here’s how I did it:

Had everything on hand...even the red wine!

Had everything on hand…even the red wine!

Bolognese Sauce

  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 2 stalks celery, cut into chunks
  • 1 small onion, peeled and cut in half
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 3 cloves of garlic, smashed and peeled
  • 1 small can (6 oz) of tomato paste
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 c red wine
  • a few sprigs of fresh thyme (you can tie it up like Anne does, but I don’t bother)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • water

Place the carrot, celery, onion and garlic into a food processor; pulse til you have a chunky paste.

A couple of 1 sec pulses should do the trick

Generously coat the bottom of a heavy pot with olive oil over medium high heat; add the vegetable paste, season with salt and pepper,

Let the browning begin!

and cook’ til vegetable paste has lost all liquid and is very brown.  This should take about 15 minutes, you will LOVE the aroma of caramelizing carrots and onions…

Browned and broken down– YUM

If the pot is very dry, add a little more olive oil, let it get hot, then add the ground beef.  Brown the beef, seasoning again with salt and pepper and breaking it up with a wooden spoon as needed.  Watch the heat level, you want to brown the meat for some time– about 15 minutes– without burning it!  Do not worry, however, about the fond at the bottom of the pot; it will release its awesome goodness when you deglaze later with the red wine.  (Recall that fond=flavor…)

Just let the meat sit there for a few minutes so it can develop a nice brown crust

Just let the meat sit there for a few minutes so it can develop a nice brown crust

When the meat is nicely browned, like this,

The browner, the better...

The browner, the better…

stir the tomato paste into the pot.  You want this to turn BROWN as well.

The mixture will be very thick, but don't worry, continue to stir and brown the paste

The mixture will be very thick, but don’t worry, continue to stir and brown the paste

When the meat mixture looks like this,

See the difference in color?

See the difference in color?

add the red wine to deglaze.

Deglaze

Deglaze

When there is little wine left,

The wine evaporates quickly, so you should have the water nearby!

The wine evaporates quickly, so you should have the water nearby!

add enough water to cover  meat by an inch.  I added 2 cups.  Note:  You don’t want too much water, just enough to cover the meat to allow it to simmer in the sauce.

Cover meat by 1 inch only.

Cover meat by 1 inch only.

Add the thyme and bay leaf and simmer ’til liquid has reduced by about half.

Thyme from my deck

Thyme from my deck

When liquid has reduced, like this (meat peeking through the sauce),

This took about 35 minutes.

This took about 35 minutes.

add more water.  I added 1 cup.  Let the sauce reduce again; continue reducing and adding back water for at least 1 1/2 hours.  I’ve gone as far as 3 hours, but only when I’m making a big batch to freeze.   You only want to add as much water as needed to cover the meat again.  The idea is to slowly reduce the sauce so it can intensify its flavors.

After 1 1/2 hours, correct seasonings.  You’re done!  Serve over your favorite long pasta.

Thick, aromatic and ready for some pasta!

Thick, aromatic and ready for some pasta!

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