Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Weeknight Bolognese

No matter how many fancy, exotic, or ethnic foods I have the pleasure and opportunity to try, I always come back to my old favorites. Spaghetti and meat sauce has been one of my favorite dishes since childhood. When I was little, this meal consisted of a box of pasta, a package of ground meat, and a jar of store-bought sauce. Over time we started to add fresh mushrooms, and aromatics like onion and garlic to jazz things up a bit. It wasn’t until I was in high school though, that I tried my hand at making sauce from scratch.

And that kind of changed my pasta-eating life. When I realized how easy it is to make homemade sauce, I knew I had no excuse for not doing it more often. (In the interest of full disclosure, I still keep store-bought marinara sauce in my cabinet for last-minute spaghetti dinners.) I’ve made many meat sauces over the years, but I have to tell you, I am utterly in love with today’s recipe.

This Weeknight Bolognese is an Ina Garten recipe. I don’t think I’ve ever made any of her recipes that didn’t turn out well, so when I came across this one in her latest cookbook, I knew I had to try it. Bolognese is typically a long-simmering meat sauce that is not the most practical for weeknight dinners. This recipe speeds things up while still managing to pack in an enormous amount of flavor. I can’t put my finger on exactly what it is, but there’s something in the sauce that had me marveling at the flavor with every bite I took. This pasta is rich and hearty but not too heavy. It has a little spice and a little kick of heat. It is divine, and it is absolutely my new favorite recipe for pasta with meat sauce.

One Year Ago: Pear-Ginger Crumble

Weeknight Bolognese
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa How Easy is That?

2 T. olive oil
1 lb. lean ground beef or ground sirloin
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 T. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 1/4 cup dry red wine, divided
28 oz. crushed tomatoes
2 T. tomato paste
1 T. Kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
16 oz. dried pasta, such as orecchiette or small shells
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 cup freshly basil leaves, thinly sliced
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving

In a large (12-inch) skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the ground beef and cook, breaking up with a wooden spoon, for 5 to 7 minutes, until the meat browns. Stir in the garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes and cook for 1 minute. Add 1 cup of the wine to the skillet and scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Stir in the tomatoes, tomato paste, salt, and pepper. Bring the sauce to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

While the sauce simmers, cook the pasta according to the package directions.

While the pasta cooks, finish the sauce. Add the nutmeg, basil, cream, and the remaining 1/4 cup of wine to the sauce. Simmer for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens.

When the pasta is done cooking, drain and pour it into a large serving bowl. Add the sauce and the Parmesan cheese. Toss well to combine.

Serve hot with extra Parmesan cheese on the side.

Serves 4 to 6.


  1. I have heard so many good things about this recipe from Ina...I'm definitely putting it on my to-make list!!

  2. We must be on the same "wavelength" :)! I made sauce this weekend, although marinara with a plan for meatballs.

    The nutmeg and cream - I'm thinking that is part of making this sauce extra good. I use a bit of cinnamon in tomato-y things ...vs sugar - to cut the acid bitterness and bring out the tomato but I'm thinking the nutmeg and that bit of cream are a better idea.

    Looks wonderful - thanks for the inspiration!

  3. Taylor - Ina's recipes are always a safe bet! I hope you like it!

  4. Ann - The nutmeg really does add that certain something that makes it extra delicious!



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