Sunday, July 8, 2012

Beef, Pork, and Veal Bolognese Sauce

One of our standby dinners is Trader Joe's frozen turkey bolognese, which is quite good, but why not make it myself?  I saw the meatloaf mix at Costco and knew it was meant to be.  The recipe for this comes from La Cucina magazine's website, and can be found at:  As always I recommend that you download the recipe or print it for future use.  Take a moment and read over the recipe now, and don't even think about making this one unless you have at least four hours to be near the stove.

Below you'll see all the ingredients I used.  The meatloaf mix and butter came from Costco, but I know I've seen a similar ground meat product at the regular grocery store.  My wife already had the bouillon, bay leaves, and peppercorns, and I went with the rainbow peppercorns because that was what we had.  Everything else came from Trader Joe's; one of the fun things about this recipe is that you only need one cup of wine so you get to drink the rest of it when it's time to eat.  Trader Joe's only sells this large can of tomato paste, which was a waste of all but two tablespoons.  Unless you use tomato paste on a daily basis in your house.  The same was true of the tomatoes; I only used half the can.  The mirepoix is a mix of carrots, onions, and celery; it saved the trouble of hand chopping the battuto.  The recipe specifies that it should be chopped by hand, but the mirepoix was the perfect amount of all three and I didn't end up with a whole lot of extra celery and carrots (they don't sell single ribs of celery usually).

I followed the recipe as best I could, but there were a few things that I had to fudge.  The tomato paste wasn't double concentrated so I just doubled the quantity.  The canned tomatoes weren't San Marzano, but I'm not made out of imported tomatoes so these had to do.  The recipe calls for pancetta and Italian sausage, but I skipped these altogether.  The ground meat comes in a 2.5 lb package, and the original recipe calls for 2.25 lbs of meat (including pancetta and sausage) so I called it even.  I'm sure they would have added more flavor, maybe next time.

We have this Cuisinart blender/food processor that does the job pretty well.  I've burned out more than a few blender motors in my day, and this is the one I bought for my wife about 7 years ago to replace hers.  It speaks to the quality of the blender that we've had it that long and it still works.

Blending the tomatoes

The red coils of the oven appear purple in the picture

Just before adding the meat
I wasn't sure how softening the vegetables without browning them would turn out, but it wasn't as difficult as I thought.  I just kept the heat very low and stirred a lot.  In the recipe the pancetta and sausage would be in the pan as well now, and the vegetables would take on some of their flavor.  

No room to stir!

I suspected when I began that the saucepan I was using was too small, but for some reason I pushed blindly forward until it became time to add the meat.  It was hard to mix everything together without spilling raw meat and veggies all over the stove, so I transferred everything into the larger pot above.  I was again nervous about heating the meat without browning it but there was so much in the pot that it wasn't as difficult as I thought.

About to add the wine

Everything in the pot, ready to simmer
Up until this point the recipe has required all of my attention; now that the ingredients are all in I had a little time to relax.  I played with the burner for a little while at the beginning to achieve the "barest simmer," meaning the pot was only slightly bubbling.  For the next 2 1/2 hours I stirred the pot every few minutes while getting in some quality time with the TV.  

This recipe turned out quite well, but not on the day I made it.  I didn't think it was very flavorful that night and was a bit disappointed, especially since I spent all afternoon making it.  I froze half the sauce and refrigerated the other half, and the next day when we warmed it up it was greatly improved.  This is one of those dishes that needs to sit overnight (at least) before the flavors really come out.  We had it with orechiette pasta (translated as small ear because of the shape of the pasta), which I like because it holds the sauce well.  I have a problem sometimes with spaghetti-type pasta because I end up with lots of extra sauce at the end of the meal.  You might be saying to yourself, "that's what bread is for!"  I agree, but maybe you don't want that many carbs in your meal.  The orechiette is good like that.  

This recipe was time-consuming but worth it in the end.  I split it up into six servings that each make a very big meal for two people when you add pasta and bread and salad.  I think next time I'm going to try it with the pancetta and Italian sausage if they're not too expensive, because it came out pretty good this way and didn't cost very much.

To see me make this sauce with the missing Italian sausage and bacon, follow this link or look in the August, 2012 posts.

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