Friday, April 1, 2016

Pasta Bolognese

My constituents asked me to make Pasta Bolognese this week. It is one of our very, VERY favorites and has been for years. It always feels like somewhat of a special occasion when it's the meal on deck. I can send my husband a picture of the sauce simmering on stove and it has the same effect as if I would have texted him the words "I love you."

This week, I went to my blog to look up the recipe to make sure I had all the ingredients I needed to throw it together and was horrified to realize I HAVE NEVER POSTED IT ON MY BLOG. How could this be? This, one of our top pastas! I'm so sorry to have held out on you.

I think it's fair to claim that, at this point, we are Bolognese connoisseurs. I made this dish for the first time pre-kids, when our addiction was just in it's beginnings. My husband and I went though a phase where we ordered Pasta Bolognese every time it was on the menu. You may think I'm kidding but we were mildly obsessed. We loved my version but somehow got the crazy idea in our heads that it was our mission to find the absolute BEST version out there. Over the course of 5 years, I'll bet we ordered the dish at restaurants upwards of 30 times. Each time we'd raise our glasses in cheers and take a bite. And then we would agree that the pasta was good but it wasn't quite a knock out. Nothing in the restaurant world quite suited our fancy but it took years before my husband finally spoke these long sought after words:

"Honey, I think your version is the best."

Hallelujah! If that's the only time he ever says that, I can die happy.

I really can't take too much credit myself. Most of it goes to the former Gourmet Magazine and their ingenuity. I have played with their version some, easing the chopping process, altering the meat mixture, and at times adding more vegetables when I'm channeling my inner dietitian.

This recipe is an excellent make-ahead option for nights when dinner needs to happen in a hurry. Take yesterday, for instance. It was the last day in March and us sun-starved Pacific Northwest folk looked at our weather apps in disbelief as temperatures were supposed to push mid-70s. I knew it would be in my best interest to spend the afternoon out in the sunshine, thawing off winter. But my fans had been begging for pasta Bolognese which can take nearly 2 hours in total with its 1 1/4 hours of simmer time. It dawned on me that I could do both. I just needed to start early.

I started at lunch time, first sautéing the veggies and then adding the milk. The recipe follows a stepwise pattern where you add one liquid at a time and then wait until it evaporates to add the next. My older two were at school and the youngest was miraculously napping and so I decided to indulge myself with some sunshine ahead of schedule and ducked out onto my front porch with a book. Between chapters, I popped back indoors to give the sauce and stir and add the next ingredient. By the time preschool pick up rolled around, the sauce was finished and I threw it in the fridge until dinnertime when it would be ready to go with a quick reheat.

This recipe is another great one to bring to others. I'm in that phase of life where babies are dropping like hotcakes and my peers are in need of great dishes to deliver to the new parents. This is probably one of the top 5 questions I get asked: "What is your favorite recipe to bring to others?"

If you decide to make this one, let me be the first to caution you - if you make a double batch (so you can have some for dinner too!) USE TWO SEPARATE POTS. I tried making a double batch in one big kettle before and it didn't turn out well. There were too many ingredient and too little cooking surface area for it to work properly. The liquid ingredients also took FOREVER to evaporate. So, just make it easy on yourself and cook your double batch in two pots side by side. Enjoy!

Pasta Bolognese
(adapted from Gourmet Cookbook)

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic
1 onion
4 carrots
4 celery ribs
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 pound ground beef
1/2 pound ground pork
1 cup milk
½ teaspoon Kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 cup dry white wine
28 ounce can whole tomatoes including juice
1 ½ - 2 pounds dried rigatoni
Shaved parmesan cheese

Dividing into two batches as needed, pulse garlic, onion, carrots and celery in a food processor until finely chopped. Set food processor aside. In large saucepan or dutch oven, heat oil and butter over moderately high heat until foam subsides. Add chopped garlic, onion, carrots, and celery, and saute until just beginning to soften, about 2 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook for 1 minute. Toss in beef and pork and cook, stirring and breaking meat apart, for about 4 minutes, or until meat is no longer pink. Add milk and salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until most of the milk is evaporated, about 10 minutes. Add wine and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid is evaporated, about 10 minutes.

Coarsely chop canned tomatoes and their juices in the set aside food processor (no need to clean it!) Stir tomatoes into the sauce and cook at a bare simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, 1 hour and 15 minutes (sauce will be thickened). Season sauce with additional with salt and pepper to taste. Sauce may be made ahead and chilled for 2 days or frozen for 1 month.

When ready to serve, bring 7 quarts of water to a boil. Cook pasta until al dente (about 11-12 minutes) and drain in a colander. Toss pasta with sauce (reheated if necessary) and sprinkle with shaved parmesan.

Serves 6-8 (fewer if you are Croziers - we LOVE pasta!)


  1. I really want to try this! It sounds like such an upgrade compared to my typical jar based sauce :) thanks for sharing!

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.


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