I’ve been batch cooking for the freezer in anticipation of a very busy fall. So far I’ve put away a few pounds of ground beef away in the form of sloppy Joe mix, chili, and Bolognese, because what could be more comforting in the middle of fall then a large plate of pasta topped with some slow-cooked meat sauce and freshly grated Parmesan cheese?
My go-to recipe is Marcella Hazan’s classic Bolognese meat sauce. Made with common every day ingredients that are staple items in most home kitchens – ground beef, butter, onions, carrots - it’s the cooking technique used here that delivers the mellow, gentle flavour we’ve come to love.
For example, she instructs that the meat should not be from a lean cut, because the more marbled it is, the sweeter the sauce will be. Consider this permission to use full fat ground beef – no lean stuff. Also, add the salt immediately to the meat when cooking it, as it extracts the juices, which will only benefit the finished flavour.
The meat must be cooked in the milk before adding the wine and tomatoes to protect it from the acidic bite of the latter, and also remember to always use a pot that retains heat. Lastly, cook, uncovered, at the slowest of simmers, for a long, long time. She suggests 3 hours, but states more is better, so leave it on the stove for as long as you like; I usually aim for somewhere between 4 ½ - 5 hours. Having said that, if you cannot watch the sauce for several hours, turn the heat off when you need to leave it unattended, and resume cooking later on. Just be sure to complete the sauce the same day you start it.
While it may seem rather labour intensive to produce something that could potentially simmer on the stove for up to 5 hours, the wait is definitely worth it, I promise. Or, you can take a cue from me, and triple the recipe. The cooking instructions work the same, and you’re left with many meals worth of sauce to store in your freezer for dinners down the road.
P.S. The boys have decided that kale Caesar is their new favourite salad. Prepare as per your favourite Caesar salad recipe, using kale in place of romaine. Interested in more kale salads? Here's 9 tips for making a great one.
The Best Bolognese
Because the sauce can - and should - be made ahead of time, this is perfect for serving to guests. This recipe can be doubled and even tripled if desired. Trust me, I've done it both ways and it works perfectly every time. Marcella suggests serving this with tagliatelle, but we often use spaghetti or fettuccini.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
- 2/3 cup finely chopped celery
- 2/3 cup finely chopped carrot
- 3/4 lb. any combination ground beef, veal, or pork
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 1 1/2 cups diced, crushed or whole tomatoes (cut, with juices)
Put the oil, butter and onions in a Dutch oven or large heavy pot set over medium heat and cook until the onion is translucent. Add the celery and carrot and cook for an additional 2 minutes.
Add the meat and a large pinch of salt and cook, crumbling the meat with a wooden spoon, until the meat has lost its raw red colour.
Add the milk and let the sauce simmer, stirring frequently, until it's bubbled away. Add the nutmeg and stir.
Add the wine and let it simmer until it has evaporated away. Then add the tomatoes and stir thoroughly. When the tomatoes begin to bubble, turn the heat down so it cooks at the laziest of simmers with just an occasional bubble. Cook uncovered for a minimum of 3 hours (5 is better), stirring occasionally.