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:
- 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
Place the carrot, celery, onion and garlic into a food processor; pulse til you have a chunky paste.
Generously coat the bottom of a heavy pot with olive oil over medium high heat; add the vegetable paste, season with salt and pepper,
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…
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…)
When the meat is nicely browned, like this,
stir the tomato paste into the pot. You want this to turn BROWN as well.
When the meat mixture looks like this,
add the red wine to deglaze.
When there is little wine left,
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.
Add the thyme and bay leaf and simmer ’til liquid has reduced by about half.
When liquid has reduced, like this (meat peeking through the sauce),
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.