I adore meatballs with spaghetti, but my family, I must shamefully admit do not like them, not one bit. Unless they are Michael Symon's Greek Lamb Meatballs... then they can eat a double batch intended for our guests before those guests make it to our gathering. So yes, I need options!
One of the things I wanted to learn how to do was make a proper Bolognese. You know a sauce with meat incorporated beautifully into some lovely pasta. I just never enjoyed those who cooked up some ground beef and dumped it in the sauce, this was not good eats. So one day I was watching Anne Burrell make her bolognese: it looked so good! Ground beef, pureed veggies, tomato paste and about 1/2 a bottle of red wine. I made a batch, it was delicious and I highly recommend this recipe which can be found here. I made it on more than one occasion and the hubster and I loved it. BUT it takes a LONG LONG time, a little bit of work and lots of love to come out great. Granted, a good sauce is worth the time, effort and love and I would still be making if my kids loved it. However, with so much red wine in the sauce my kids kept asking for their favorite super market brand... parenting fail!
However, with inspiration from Anne Burrell and a little more from watching the likes of Mario Batalli and Michael Symon... I have perfected the perfect, easy and not so intensive and most importantly family friendly bolognese! It will satisfy a sophisticated grown up pallet and your kids will be licking their plates too. So enjoy!
This is also an easy recipe to can or freeze, so go on, grab the biggest pot you can find and make a double batch! You will have left overs from this one, but if you are like our family, you will find yourself warming up the leftovers and dipping into it with a little bread during football games or putting on a hot dog or dressing up a burger or adding a few more spices and turning it into a last minute chili. It's as versatile as your imagination.
1 large onion or 2 small diced
2 large carrots, small dice or shredded (your choice, but I prefer small dice)
2 ribs celery, small dice
4 cloves garlic, medium dice
Extra-virgin olive oil, for the pan
3 pounds ground chuck, brisket or round or combination (I use round most often, but they all work great.)
2 1lb cans of your favorite tomato puree
1 1lb can of diced tomato
3 bay leaves
1 bunch thyme, tied in a bundle
1 Tbs. fresh oregano chopped
3 Tbs. fresh Basil chiffonade
1 pound spaghetti or favorite long noodle like linguini or Fettuccine
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
In a large sauce pot over medium heat, coat pan with oil. Add the veggies one at a time starting with carrots, let them cook for a minute until they soften, then add celery. Let that cook for a moment until celery is starting to soften and then add onion and continue to cook until onions are translucent and then add your garlic. Once you have added the garlic, let the veggies cook until you start to see things browning... now burning... until all their good caramelized bits start sticking to the bottom of your pan. Once that starts to happen, add your herbs and season liberally with salt. Stir together for a moment and then start to add your meat.
Let the meat brown and turn over and move around as needed. Add another liberal sprinkling of salt. This is the most consuming part of making this sauce but it really only takes about 20 minutes or so. Once all your meat is browned and is starting to crumble, add your can of diced tomato.
Stir for a moment to incorporate and let the tomatoes start to cook. Then added your 2 cans of tomato puree. Stir to fully incorporate into the meat and veggies and season with more salt (taste now but don't over salt as you are going to be reducing this sauce)Bring the sauce to a simmer, turn it down to low and walk away. Let it slowly cook and simmer all day. It should be reduced by just about half! Taste at this time and season with more salt if needed. Shut off sauce.
I will put this sauce on at 10am most days and it makes the house smell awesome all day. BUT you can put this on as little as 2 hours before dinner and get great results with flavor... you just have to simmer a little harder for the first hour (practically boil). When the sauce is ready, it should be thick and meaty. Not at all thin like a traditional spaghetti sauce. It should seem like it is almost like lightly coated meat. If it gets too thick you can add a little water but not much as you want this to coat your pasta not be poured over top.
When you are about 20 minutes from serving cook your pasta. Cook it 1 minute less than the package calls for al-dente pasta and be sure to salt your water liberally. Reserve about a cup of your pasta water. Once drained put your pasta in the now empty pasta cooking pot and add a few big scoops of sauce to completely coat the pasta and a bit more... stir into pasta and cook for a few minutes together if it is too thick, add a bit of your pasta water. Put your now prepared pasta on plates or terrines... sprinkle with your Parmigiano-Reggiano and if you want to get really fancy, add a sprig of fresh basil. Now just sit back and enjoy!
Serve with a nice side salad and garlic toast!