[43] Meat Sauce, Bolognese Style

How to Cook Everything, Revised Edition by Mark Bittman

This was the second in a set of three recipes I made on Monday. It was also made because I wanted lasagne.

This recipe takes a long time to make. It’s well worth it, I’d say, but it’s important to be aware of that. If you forget, you end up like me, chopping shallots before you’ve had your version of morning caffeine. No good. It’s amazing I have all my fingers.

It’s really a simple story. I was planning to make the lasagne on Sunday, when I had plenty of time. But we slept in and then decided we’d be better off going for a walk and picking up some potting soil and pots for my new plants (thyme and lemon balm). After all, I would have plenty of time to make lasagne on Monday. And since we’d have company (Jessie) on Monday to help us eat it, all the better.

And then I woke up at 6:30 am on Monday and remembered I’d made a 1:00 pm lunch date with a friend. Which was right smack in the middle of prime lasagne making time. So I got out of bed about half an hour later and plugged in the kettle for tea and started chopping and taking photos and generally trying to make dinner. Before breakfast.

Good thing this was delicious, because MAN. Not only did I start this before the tea water was boiling, my tea ended up delayed because I was in the middle of chopping celery or stirring or something when the kettle told me my water was ready.

h2. Ingredients

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped (Again, I had a large shallot on hand, so I used that.)

1 carrot, chopped

1 stalk celery, chopped

1/4 c chopped bacon or pancetta (Amazingly, I had some bacon in the freezer.)

8 oz lean ground beef (I suspect ours was not so lean, but I don’t recall what I bought.)

8 oz lean ground pork (I used all beef, as he says is okay, because my beef was frozen in 1lb packages, and I didn’t want to buy ground pork.)

3/4 c dry white wine or juice from the tomatoes (Usefully, this is almost exactly the amount of wine that comes in one of those “single serve” bottles.)

1 28 or 35 oz can of whole plum tomatoes, drained & juice reserved if you’re using it instead of wine

1 c chicken or beef stock (I used chicken stock from our stash in the freezer.)

1 c cream, half & half or milk (I used whole milk.)

h2. Instructions

Put the oil in a large, deep skillet or sauce pan over medium-low heat, and add the carrot, celery, onion and bacon when hot. Cook & stir occasionally until the veggies are tender, about 10 minutes.

Add the ground meat and cook until all the red is gone, breaking up the clumps as you go. At this point, add the wine or tomato juice and increase the heat slightly. Cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has evaporated.

Crush the tomatoes with your hands or a fork (but, really use your hands, it’s way fun), and then add to the cookpot. Stir them in, then add the stock. Turn the heat to low and simmer for an hour or so. Stir occasionally and break up any remaining clumps of meat and break up the tomatoes. At the end of the ~hour, sprinkle the sauce with salt and pepper. Cook, continuing stirring (I presume) for at least another hour; until most of the liquid has evaporated and the sauce is very thick. If you want to refrigerate the sauce for a couple of days or freeze it, now’s your moment. Reheat it fully before moving on when you pull it back out.

Stir in the cream/half & half/milk and cook for another 15 – 30 minutes; stir occasionally. Taste and add more the seasonings as needed. Serve immediately on any cooked pasta, or do like I did and turn it into WONDERFUL lasagne.

h2. Cooking and Consumption Notes

h3. Cooking

Chopping onions and their relatives, in this case shallots, makes me cry so much. I think some of this is just that, for whatever reason, our CSA shallots are extra pungent, but I know that’s not the total reason. Extra pungency is a “booray”, in Bill’s company’s parlance, because “boo” to having such a weepy reaction that your nose runs and you have to stop everything to deal with that before it contaminates your food, but “hooray” for extra tasty food when it’s all cooked down. Chopping them before my morning tea is, to be quite honest, mostly just “boo”.

Bacon! For a time there, I was feeling like I was going to have to run out and buy some on Sunday. I was sure we’d eaten the last of the bacon Saturday morning. However, my freezer o’ plenty provided for me in a pinch. I had a small bag with about 5 slices of bacon in there. Monday morning came and I found this was a bit more than 1/4 cup once I chopped it up, so I made some bacon bits at the same time. We’ll let it grace a delicious salad or something later. Maybe tonight, even.

So, I have discovered that there exists a time of day when cooking with wine does not sound like as good an idea as not cooking with wine. Normally, I am excited to cook with wine, as it means I can have a glass during or after the cooking. As it turns out, I cannot even stomach the thought of drinking a glass of wine at 7:00 am. So much so that I almost decided to cook this sauce with the juice of the canned tomatoes rather than wine. Thankfully, I came to my senses at the last minute, and pulled out one of the tiny (187 mL) bottles of white we keep around just for cooking. They’re great for a variety of reasons, one of which is that 187 mL is just a touch over 3/4 cups. And, oh my. Cooking this with the wine just smelled SO GOOD. While Bittman says the wine is optional, I would so strongly recommend using it if you don’t have some strong reason not to. Don’t be like me and just not want to open wine at 7:00 am.

As for the tomatoes, just break them up with your hands before putting them in. Seriously.

Before you add the milk, this sauce is not going to seem very “saucy”. Have faith! It will come together (I was expressing doubt to Nancy at lunch, but I was wrong).

h3. Consumption

Well, I didn’t have much of this straight; just enough to determine if the seasonings needed “adjusting” (remember, you can’t fish extra salt out, you can basically only ADD seasonings).

Still, it was very good. I was quite happy with it, and look forward to making it as a sauce on it’s own. I’ll get more into this in the next post, on the lasagne as a whole, since that’s what I did with it.

2 thoughts on “[43] Meat Sauce, Bolognese Style

  1. I’m such a dork – I’m on the edge of my seat waiting to see how the lasagna turned out after all this work!

    And I’m totally making this sauce next week.

    • You should make this sauce! You won’t regret it. Even better, I bet it’s in your copy of the book, so you don’t even have to haul the ‘puter in there.

      I promise to post the end tomorrow. 😀

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