Thursday, February 4, 2010

Meat me in Bologna...

I used to think a bolognese sauce was just tomato sauce with ground beef added to it. Nothing special, nothing I was in a hurry to try.

When I met my father-in-law over a decade ago, I quickly discovered that one of his favorite meals is spaghetti bolognese. If we are out at a restaurant and they have it, that's what he'll order. The waiter could spout out ten mouth-watering specials and for a minute you think Dad might take the bait. Ahhh...nope he's going for the bolognese again. It's quite endearing actually.

My first attempt to make my own bolognese sauce came about because I wanted to make it for Dad-in-law. I was shocked to find out how much actually went into it. Ingredients I would have never guessed. Milk? Dried mushrooms? White wine? The first batch was a success. It was a recipe from the Best Recipe Book. I've made it a handful of time since and have developed my own way of doing it. I try not to eat red meat all too often but when I do it has to be good! And this is so, so good!

Spaghetti Bolognese


  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 medium onion or 2 small, chopped fine
  • 2 carrots; peeled, chopped fine (I put both the carrots and onions into the food processor at the same time, cut them into smaller pieces first or the food processor will turn it into mush)
  • 2 tbsp garlic, chopped fine
  • 2 slices of bacon, chopped small
  • 1 small package of dried wild mushrooms (or 8 oz (1/2 lb) of fresh cremini mushrooms, chopped fine)
  • 1 lb premium ground beef, I use 85/15 fat
  • 3 sweet Italian sausage links, removed from casings; or you can just add another pound of ground beef
  • 1 cup milk (1 % or whole)
  • 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tsp sugar (depending on how sweet your canned tomatoes are)
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 lb of pasta of your choice (I like good old spaghetti)
  • grated or shredded Parmesan cheese

Placed dried mushrooms in a small bowl. Pour boiling hot water on top of them until almost covered. Let them sit while you prep the rest of the veggies. When the mushrooms are soft, remove them from the bowl but keep the remaining liquid to the side.
Chop fine with a knife or pulse them in the food processor. Set aside.

Heat up butter in a large pan or dutch oven over medium to medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook until it is crispy. Drain off a little of the grease if there is much more than 2 tablespoons. Add the onions and carrots and saute for 3 minutes. Add the chopped mushrooms to the carrots and onions and cook for another 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the beef and sausage, cook for 2 minutes breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon.
Add milk and when it comes to a boil, turn down the heat to a low simmer. Cook for 10-15 minutes more, continuing to stir and break up meat. Most of the milk should be evaporated by now. Add tomatoes, reserved liquid from the mushrooms, wine, sugar and 1 teaspoon of salt, stir to combine. When it all comes back to a boil, turn down heat to a low simmer and cook for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add more salt and pepper to taste. Serve over pasta that is cooked al dente with a side of shredded parmesan.

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