This meaty, filled with veg sauce is close enough to an authentic bolognese sauce that I feel pretty comfortable calling it one. What did I omit that is traditionally included? Two ingredients that no doubt would take this up another level are wine and pancetta or bacon. But having left them out I still ended up with a rich, tasty sauce. The benefit of adding wine is that you would be able to 'deglaze' the pan (lift up any meat and other ingredients stuck on - these 'scrapings' add to the flavour). In my sauce, pictured above, I used ground pork and beef - in many traditional bolognese sauces you would find veal and beef, or veal and pork (and sometimes chicken or goose liver). I am quite sure this would work just as well with ground turkey or chicken as well, even if it would take us a few more steps away from the traditional.
To start off with you have a simple soffrito, which I just read about, even though I've been making it as a base for stews and sauces for ages. It actually refers to the technique of frying the vegetables until soft, or 'sweating' them. It isn't rigid in that you can use what vegetables you have on hand - although it would generally include carrots, celery and onion. Green pepper could be used, or any colour of bell pepper would work fine here. This is your starter, your base, for soups, stews, and sauces. Then you add the meat (if using) and herbs and spices. Depending on the bolognese recipe you might find thyme as the primary spice, or sage, or oregano (to name a few). I chose to include all three of these. I added four cloves of garlic, but you could easily add more or less and still end up with a great flavour at the end. I also used all dried herbs, with the exception of the sage, which I had around from the stew I made last week.
This benefits greatly from some simmering time, in the range of 1 1/2 to 2 hours, but if you are in a hurry it will still be tasty with a short simmer time. I would cut down on the broth or water if you aren't going to be simmering it for as long so you end up with a thicker result. Of course it will always be even better the next day.
If I hadn't been poking around online to read up on bolognese sauce I would have likely cooked spaghetti noodles to serve along with this sauce. I discovered that traditionally this would be served with egg noodles as spaghetti noodles would not be able to hold the meaty sauce as well. I happened to have some egg noodles around and they really were great with it. The meaty sauce nestled in the curves of the noodles and it was easy to get a mouthful of both the noodles and the sauce. Fusilli pasta (twists) would work well too. Other sources state that tagliatelle noodles are used - so I guess it depends on the source. I was glad for the inspiration to try a different noodle than I normally use.
So, whether making this on a weekend afternoon when you have time to let it gently simmer for a few hours, or whipping it up when you get home from work during the week, it's an easy recipe, and open to interpretation and further additions (zucchini, eggplant, mushrooms are a few that come to mind). I'm sure pancetta or bacon and a nice glass of wine thrown in would make it extra special.
This would be a great party or group dish (like a Superbowl party for instance). Make a big batch, warm up some garlic bread and you've got an easy to serve meal. Make it a day ahead for an even easier afternoon or evening of entertaining.
- 2 medium onions, finely chopped
- 4 celery ribs, finely chopped
- 4 carrots, finely chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, crushed or finely chopped
- 1 to 2 tablespoons (15 to 30 ml) olive oil
- 1 lb. (450 grams approximately) ground pork
- 1 lb. (450 grams approximately) ground beef
- 1 (6 oz) can (177 ml, 3/4 cup) of tomato paste
- 1 (28 oz) can (798 ml) of crushed tomatoes
- 1/2 cup (125 ml) milk (add up to 1 cup/250 ml)
- 1.5 to 2 cups (375 ml to 500 ml) water or stock
- 2 tsp (10 ml) thyme
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) sage, chopped
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) oregano
- 1/8 teaspoon (.5 ml) nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp (2 ml) salt
- 1 tsp (5 ml) ground pepper
Cook onions, celery, carrot and garlic in olive oil until soft.
Add pork and beef and cook over medium high heat, breaking up the meat, until it is no longer pink (about 6 to 8 minutes). Drain off fat.
Stir in tomato paste, milk, crushed tomatoes, water or broth and herbs. Gently simmer for 1 1/2 hours to 2 hours or longer if you have the time. Stir occasionally. Serve over egg noodles or any pasta you prefer.
Note: You could easily use less meat than I have specified here if this is more than you would like. This was a very meaty sauce.