Our bolognese pasta is a symphony of simple flavors that combine ground veal, Italian sausage, porcini mushrooms and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese for a world class meat sauce to pair with your favorite type of pasta.
Zesty Bolognese Pasta
About twenty one years ago, on the eve of my first anniversary in the culinary industry, I was with friends visiting Sin City Las Vegas. I don’t remember the hotel, but we met up some time between margaritas, the outdoor pool and pai gow for lunch at an Italian cafe. Let’s just say it was the MGM because that is all I can recollect. I was still really financially challenged from the career change, but I love to eat.
So, I ended up ordering spaghetti with wagyu meatballs for $28. I really wanted to try, well most of the appetizers on the menu and a salad or too. I was kind of strapped for cash and on a budget, however I was able to talk one of my friends into splitting a Caprese salad. Perfect, 28 + 7 = 35 plus a 5 dollar tip. Expensive for lunch, but doable. I was thinking I’d make it up by hitting the blackjack tables after. Yeah right. There is a reason why the house always wins. The wagyu pasta dish was good, but not great. The meatballs were good, but not phenomenal. At that point I had vowed one day to create great pasta dishes and never to use wagyu beef in meatballs.
Simplicity is sometimes better…
The moral of the story is just because a restaurant is using high-end ingredients, and you are paying top dollar for these ingredients, doesn’t make a phenomenal meal. If you are a key principle of a Silicon Valley start-up then definitely order everything on the menu. In all honesty though, I have had some memorable meals in Vegas. Nob Hill, Michael Mina’s, Bouchon and Nobu’s back in their hey day were tours in gastronomic extravagance. Ironically these were all comped meals because someone knew a chef or general manager somewhere. Why is the food always better when it is comped? The restaurant knows that they are serving either family or friends, and they always put their best foot forward.
Using high end ingredients doesn’t necessarily equate to delicious food. For our pasta recipe, we use simple ingredients to create an incredibly flavorful bolognese meat sauce that should be part of your dinner rotation.
For an Asian twist on seafood pasta try our Mentaiko pasta with shrimp.
WHAT IS BOLOGNESE MEAT SAUCE?
Bolognese or ragù bolognese is a meat based sauce widely popular in the tomato based sauces of Italian cuisine. There are numerous regional variations of this dish in Italy and abroad. The sauce is normally served with tagliatelle pasta or used in lasagna. For some reason, I’ve seen bolognese used very often with penne pasta. The broad components of the dish are meat, herbs, vegetables, wine, stock and dairy. It is a more complex type of sauce than the deep red marinara that is mostly tomato based and achieves sweetness from long hours of slow simmering. Marinara is used for pasta and meat dishes, but the sauce itself typically lacks meat with the exception of some recipes that contain anchovies.
THE BOLOGNESE MEAT SAUCE
There are a lot of ingredients, but the process is very straightforward.
Soak the dried porcini mushrooms in 1-1/2 cups warm water. Puree the San Marzano tomatoes in a blender and set aside. I used to see canned San Marzano tomatoes all the time. These days I have to look a little harder because most of what I find are “San Marzano style” tomatoes. Those products work, but they are not the same as the real thing.
Heat a large Dutch oven sized pot over medium high heat. Add 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil. Brown the ground veal and sausage (remove from casings) breaking up the meat into small pieces. Start the seasoning the ground meat with salt and pepper. I use a wooden spoon to break up the ground meats. Remove the meat from the pan and drain the fat out. Set the meat aside and return the pan to the stovetop.
Add 2 more tablespoons extra virgin olive oil. First add the dried oregano and basil. The dried herbs should start to sizzle and slowly brown with an aromatic smell. Cook for 30 seconds then add onions, celery and carrots. Season the vegetables lightly with salt and pepper. Sweat vegetables for 2 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds. Add the bay leaf, dried chili flakes and thyme. Mix all the ingredients around.
Deglaze with wine. Bring to a boil and gently scrape any brown bits at the bottom of pan. Reduce the liquid by half. Add chicken stock, porcini mushrooms plus soaking liquid then bring to a boil. Reduce liquid by 1/4 (cook for about 3 minutes). Stir in the tomato paste till well incorporated.
Add the pureed San Marzano tomatoes. Return the meat to the pan. Bring the sauce to a simmer. Next add ground black pepper, sugar and red wine vinegar. Stir in the heavy whipping cream and continue to cook until it starts bubbling. Reduce to a low simmer and cook for 30 minutes stirring occasionally.
Season the sauce with salt as needed. Add the grated parmesan then stir until completely melted and the cheese becomes part of the sauce. I use a microplane for the parmesan. If the pieces are too big then they won’t fully melt into the sauce.
*Tasting Notes: The longer the simmer, the more the flavors set in. Just be careful because it is a thicker sauce. Sometimes if I am cooking this ahead of time, I add more stock later on to thin it out.
PLATING THE BOLOGNESE PASTA
Prepare your pasta and divide between 4 pasta bowls. We recommend cooking your pasta al dente, so it has a firm almost chewy texture. Toss each bowl with a large ladle of bolognese sauce. Garnish with parsley, fresh basil and grated parmesan. It is a fan favorite in the house. My kids love this dish and request any leftovers for lunch the next day.
Thank you reading. Enjoy!
*Tasting Tip: Don’t forget the garlic bread. Sometimes we use whipped butter, but for something healthier dip your baked crusty loaf in extra virgin olive oil with a little bit of sea salt.
*CrossEat Tip: Remember to compost your vegetable scraps. Any unused mire poix can be used in making stock.
**CrossEat Tip: Excess Parmesan can be used for Caesar salad. Even better, make our Caesar Salad with the Bolognese!
***CrossEat Tip: Leftover heavy whipping cream can be turned into whipped cream. Just whisk with sugar & vanilla to taste and freeze.
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