Cooking the Book: Weeknight Bolognese
I have spent an inordinate amount of time looking for a great but still do-able at home Bolognese sauce. There have been a few slow cooker trials, but it came out kind of thin and insipid, not tasting like it cooked all day even though it did. I tried a great recipe from an Italian chef I admire, and while the flavor was exactly what I was looking for, the commercial quantities were overwhelming and in cutting it down, some of the richness was lost. I’ve even made a version I saw on Cook’s Country (which is, like the cookbook I’m cooking through, brought to you by the folks in America’s Test Kitchen), only to be disappointed.
And then there it was.
Terrific Bolognese. For two. And I don’t even have to spend all day making it or end up with a huge vat.
Admittedly, I was a little skeptical about the process of adding a bunch of water and then cooking the noodles in the now-somewhat-watered-down sauce, but even that works out well. And there’s one less pot to clean.
What more could you ask for?
Quick, easy and with that rich, cooked-all-day flavor without actually cooking it all day — this has instantly become my go-to meat sauce. I can’t even tell you how excited I am about this sauce. This is easily my favorite recipe in the cookbook so far and it will be very, very difficult to top.
It might be relatively easy and scaled down, but it’s important to remember that it’s still Bolognese and might require some ingredients you don’t usually have around the house, like whole milk and/or meatloaf mix, so plan ahead. If your grocery store doesn’t carry meatloaf mix, you might be able to ask the butcher for 2 ounces each ground beef, pork and veal and smoosh them together yourself (or even get larger amounts, smoosh, then freeze your own mix). While I’m sure it’s not going to hurt anyone to make it with just ground beef, I confess I’ve never tried it; if you do, make sure you don’t go too lean, as you need a little fat in the mix to keep things moist. Ground turkey is probably not a good choice.
Literal leftovers, none that I recall. I think you could probably use whatever long stringy pasta you have in the cupboard. We happened to have linguine (and I was trying to follow the recipe to a T). Tagliatelle is actually the traditional choice; pappardelle will also do well. Spaghetti is actually frowned upon by Italians for this sauce, even though you do see it all over the place in the U.S. and U.K. (spag bol, anyone?).
Since one rarely uses an entire can of anchovies — and that goes double when cooking for two — I use anchovy paste instead of cracking open an entire can and then having to store the rest of the little buggers. About 1/2 teaspoon equals one fillet.
Weeknight Bolognese with Linguine
From Cooking for 2 2011
1 small onion, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 carrot, cut into 1-ince pieces
1 1/2 ounces pancetta, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/4 ounce dried porcini mushrooms, rinsed
1/2 anchovy fillet, rinsed
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon sugar
6 ounces meatloaf mix
3/4 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 cups water
6 ounces linguine
salt and pepper
grated Parmesan cheese, for serving
Pulse onion, carrot, pancetta, porcini and anchovy in food processor until very finely chopped 10 to 15 pulses; transfer to bowl. Pulse tomatoes with their juice until mostly smooth, about 8 pulses.
Melt butter in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add processed onion mixture and cook until softened and lightly browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in garlic and sugar and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Stir in meatloaf mix, breaking up meat with wooden spoon, and cook for 1 minute. Stir in milk, scraping up any browned bits, bring to simmer and cook until almost completely evaporated, 8 to 10 minutes.
Stir in tomato paste and cook for 1 minute; stir in wine, bring to simmer and cook until almost completely evaporated, 3 to 5 minutes.
Add processed tomatoes, water and pasta and bring to rapid simmer. Cover and simmer vigorously, stirring often, until pasta is tender and sauce is thickened, 12 to 16 minutes. Off heat, season with salt and pepper to taste and serve with Parmesan.