Healthy(er) Bolognese

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healthy bolognese

Bolognese is one of my favorite pasta sauces. The best bolognese I’ve had comes from one of my favorite restaurants—Café Bink! One thing that always puzzled me was just how they achieved such a fine texture with their sauce, I just assumed it came from grinding their own meat. Then BF had a great idea- why not try my shiny, new immersion blender to grind my chunky meat sauce into something finer! (duh) It worked like a charm! I’m sure it’s much healthier for me than Bink’s, anyway, using turkey sausage and extra lean ground beef as its main components.

That’s my Penzey’s ”Sandwich Sprinkle” in the background, I used it to help season my toasty garlic bread. I used Farfalle for this particular occasion, because it’s cute. See how cute the little bow-ties are? I should’ve bought the mini farfalle, everything is even cuter when it’s mini… maybe next time…

So here’s a relatively quick & easy Bolognese, make sure to read all the way to the end for helpful tips!

Pasta Bolognese

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  • 1/2 pkg sweet or spicy Italian sausage (I use turkey), casings removed
  • 1 lb ground beef (I use 97% lean)
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 1 medium carrot, finely diced
  • 1 stalk celery, finely diced
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 c red wine (or 1 c beef stock, or ½ c each)
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning (or 1/2 tsp each dried oregano, basil, and parsley)
  • ½ – 1 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 28 oz can whole or crushed tomatoes
  • Splash of heavy cream & very small dash of ground nutmeg (optional, but strongly recommended)
  • 1 box pasta (or desired amount), cooked in salted water
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Olive Oil (or other neutral oil)

1. In a large sauté pan or dutch oven heat oil over medium/med-high heat. Add both meats and cook until well-browned, breaking up into small pieces. If necessary, drain excess fat.

2. Add onion, carrot, celery, and a dash of salt and pepper. Cook until soft, but not quite browned. Add garlic & red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant (just about a minute).

3. Add red wine and/or beef stock and deglaze pan, scraping up all the brown bits and mixing well. Simmer until wine is reduced by half.

4. Reduce heat to low and add tomatoes, breaking up with spatula or spoon if necessary (be careful- they squirt!) Allow to simmer, covered, for 30 minutes or several hours, checking occasionally to stir and add broth or water if it’s drying out (it shouldn’t be). It should be simmering, not boiling, so be sure the heat is low.

5. About 10 minutes before serving, add a splash of heavy cream, stir to incorporate. Adjust seasonings as necessary (sometimes, a splash of balsamic vinegar can brighten the sauce if it’s tasting a bit flat). Cover with lid slightly ajar and allow to simmer 10 minutes longer.

6. Toss with cooked pasta, top with fresh basil and fresh-grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese.

Tips

* Using an immersion blender, slightly puree the sauce to an even consistency—be careful not to go too far, or the sauce will resemble baby food and be much less appealing

-A food processor is a messier, less-safe way to accomplish the same task

*You can substitute 1 Tb ea fresh basil and parsley in place of the dried Italian seasoning or 1/2 tsp ea parsley, basil, and oregano.

*I recommend an enameled pan since stainless steel can sometimes make the sauce taste “tinny”- I will admit I made this batch in my AC Stainless Steel Saute and it was delish though :)

*As always, feel free to add more veggies if you like to stretch the sauce, though you may need to add more canned tomatoes (or a small can of ‘tomato sauce’ or ‘crushed tomatoes’)

*If the sauce tastes a little “flat”, try adding a teaspoon of sugar or a dash of balsamic vinegar to brighten the flavor.

*Since I’m usually only cooking for two, and this makes a lot of sauce, I usually freeze the extras in 2-person portions in Ziploc bags, which makes it easy to take out and re-heat on those nights when I just don’t have the time or energy to cook.

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