Bolognese is the ultimate comfort food for me – both to make and to eat! The flavorful, steaming sauce full of rich herbs and spices combined with the hearty ground meat always gives me a sense of continuity and reliability in this world. Maybe that’s silly – but it’s true! Since my family doesn’t live near me, this is the next best thing to a hug from my mom, especially when I cook it in my Le Creuset pot we got together. She gave it to me as a graduation/birthday combined present. It’s over 10 years old now and I still use it nearly every day!
This is recipe is so easy to make, and if you start ahead of time you can let it simmer on low heat, partially covered until dinner time. And, you can make a ton because it’s even better leftover. And you can freeze it!
It’s happened a few times now, that I’ve made bolognese for people or been talking about making it, and they have no idea what I say at first. “Bolognese” I say again. “Bolo… what’s that?” I laugh and say “It’s meat sauce!” and then everything becomes clear. Hence the title of this post – Bolognese aka Meat Sauce – just for those of you who haven’t heard the term bolognese, know you’re not alone.
The first meal I made
There’s something romantic about cooking Bolognese. The long cook time (if you can swing it), the slow, steady bubbling, and of course the amazing smell that wafts up from the sauce. When I was in college, at Southern Methodist University, I remember I making this in the first apartment I lived in. Tiny shoebox studio apartment. My closet smelled like bolognese for weeks. I highly recommend opening a window if you decide to do the long cook time in a very small enclosed space next to your closet.
I like to use Bison when I can, and this is a great recipe for it. However, beef will do just fine! When I look for ground beef I try to find grass raised and grass finished. I also typically go for the 90% lean 10% fat instead of the 85%/15% but that’s just me. If you do opt for the 15% I definitely recommend straining out the fat. It’s not required for the 90% lean, but I strain it out anyways. I also know people sometimes do a mix of beef and pork which would also work well. Make this Bolognese your own. That’s what comfort food cooking is all about!
Bolognese doesn’t typically have nutmeg in it, but I think it adds a warmth that’s especially comforting in the winter months. If you’re not so sure on using it (it is just a teeny-tiny bit though), then feel free to omit. This recipe is pretty fool proof!
Bolognese is… Orange?
Yes. When made classically, Bolognese has a touch of heavy cream and a pat of butter added in at the end, giving the sauce a wonderful light red, orange coloring. If you are dairy free or trying to limit dairy, feel free omit this.
If you make this recipe, I would love to hear from you! I’d love it if you could leave a comment or rate it below. Also if you take pictures and post to social media, I’d love it if you tagged me! Seeing your food always makes my day!
Comforting and filling. Substitute regular pasta for gluten free alternatives. One of my favorites is the Capello’s Fettucini.
1 Yellow Onion, small (1/4’’) diced 3 Cloves of Garlic, minced 1 Pound Ground Bison (you can use any protein you like, beef, half beef half ground pork, etc.) 1 each 28oz Can Pureed Tomatoes (I like the San Merican Tomato brand) 2 Tbsp Oregano 1 each Bay Leaf 1 tsp Cinnamon 1/2 tsp Nutmeg 1 tsp Red Chili Flakes 1 tsp Thyme 1 Tbsp Fresh Basil (or 2 tsp dried) Salt & Pepper To Taste 2 Tbsp Butter (Optional) 2 Tbsp Heavy Cream (Optional)
1. Start by cutting up your onions and garlic. 2. Heat up both a large saute pan for your meat and a pot for your sauce; both on medium-high heat. Add enough oil to coat the bottom of each. We are going to start cooking the sauce items and cook the meat separately then strain it, then add it to the sauce in the pot. Alternatively, you can use one pot and hold the beef in the strainer once cooked until necessary to add back into the sauce. 3. When the pot is hot, add in the onions and garlic. When the saute pan is hot, add in the meat. Stir and break up until cooked through. 4. When onions turn translucent, set heat to medium-low and add in herbs and spices. Stir to incorporate with the onion and garlic. Then add in the tomato puree. Puree should be sticking to the sides on the inside of the can, fill halfway to 2/3 with water and carefully swirl to remove some of it. Put the flavored water in the sauce as well. This will thin out the sauce, but if you let it simmer for an hour or two, it will eventually evaporate and thicken. Consequently, this helps prevent the sauce from drying out and burning while cooking. 5. Once the meat is cooked through, take off the heat and strain fat into an empty milk carton, a glass bowl, or anything besides your kitchen sink drain. Once the grease has cooled, dispose of that in the trash. Return the meat to the pan and set aside, off heat. 6. After the sauce has been simmering for a good 15–20 minutes, add in the meat and stir well. 7. Set stove to low, cover the pot partially, and let the sauce come to a light simmer. Stir every so often so prevent scorching in the bottom of the pot. Cook for as long as you can (up to 3 hours) on the lowest setting your stove has. If you don’t have that kind of time, only cover the pot half-way and turn up the heat to the second-lowest setting. Stir more frequently in this case. 8. 20–30 minutes before you’re ready to eat, add in the red wine if using. Turn the burner for your boiling water on medium-low to get your water going for the pasta. 9. 10 minutes before you’re ready to eat, turn the water burner up to high to get a rolling boil. Boil your pasta. I like to use Cappello’s Gluten-Free Fettuccine, but you can use whatever you like. At this time, also add in the butter and heavy cream to finish your bolognese sauce (this will turn the sauce a beautiful orangey color instead of bright red). Simmer for 3 minutes at least, or until pasta is ready.
Optional: I like to pair this dish with Chianti Classico from Italy, whenever I have it on hand I will add about a 1/4 cup to the sauce 20 minutes before I take it off the stove to serve. I’ll also serve that same bottle with dinner.