A classic dish, Spaghetti Bolognese was difficult to categorize in this article, because its origin is arguable. While the concept of this meat sauce originated in Northern Italy in the “Bologna” region, the French would often take food influences from bordering countries and adopt their own recipes, still naming the dish by its inspirational region. While it’s not exactly “quick”, it’s definitely easy, and much of the time is simmering.
Clearly, the idea of saturating food in wine is French. I could spend more time and research to ascertain which came first – Bolognaise, the French spelling, or Bolognese, the Italian spelling – but this is a cooking site and not a history blog. So, to make everyone happy, I’ve put it both categories. And now, on with our favorite family recipe!
This version of a classic recipe began with my mom-in-law, a French native and a fabulous cook. Made traditionally, it simply was not palatable for my American kids. I don’t give up easily, and want them to be exposed to all tastes – so they can grow up to be foodie aficionados. 🙂 Here, I’ve reduced the amount of wine and chopped up the veggies finely enough to appeal to the kids, but have not lost the integrity of the sauce.
The most important element of this recipe is that the meat is added AFTER the sauce is almost done – this is the family secret I am sharing with you – and the results are over the top. Don’t be afraid of not browning the meat first – it will be completely cooked in the sauce. You will note by the photo, there is no problem getting those kiddos to eat this company-worthy spaghetti recipe. And if you own an awesome Cuisinart Mini-Prep Plus that you can get at my store, (I use it almost every day!) you can have all your veggies chopped in a minute and have this sauce prepped in no time. After you have poured yourself a glass of wine to begin cooking, do the following to serve 4-6 people:
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 2 carrots, finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
- 1 cup cremini mushrooms, stems trimmed, finely chopped
- 1 6-oz can tomato paste
- 2 cups low-sodium chicken stock (plus more for thinning, if needed)
- 1 cup medium-bodied quality red wine, such as a Cabernet sauvignon
- 1 15-oz can tomato puree, or diced tomatoes run through the processor
- 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
- 1 or 2 bay leaves
- 1-1/2 pounds good-quality ground beef (preferably organic, but at least sirloin)
- coarse salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
- 1 lb. whole wheat spaghetti
- White shredded cheese of your choice to serve: French like Swiss for this dish, Italians like Parm – you decide!
In a large sauce pot or dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots and garlic to the pot; saute for a few minutes until softened. Add the mushrooms; continue to cook, stirring occasionally, about 4-5 minutes. Add a little salt and pepper. Stir in the tomato paste. Add the stock, wine, tomato puree, seasoning, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, follow the directions on the pasta package for cooking the noodles. I prefer my noodles a minute or two after al dente, as usually recommended – just do them how you like – people are funny about texture.
While the pasta is cooking, begin crumbling tiny pieces of the ground beef into the sauce with your fingers. Don’t worry about making anything symmetrical; the pieces of beef will shrink with cooking and just be tiny bits of meaty goodness. Avoid large chunks of meat. This will take a couple of minutes, and will be done about the same time as your pasta, so it works out well. Stir all the meat into the sauce until it’s incorporated. Cover the pot; simmer another 10 minutes. Longer is not necessary and will toughen the meat; thereby defeating the purpose of adding it at the end.
Drain your pasta, and return it to its pan. Spoon one ladleful of sauce into the noodles. Toss to coat. To serve, pile noodles into bowls. Top with additional ladles-full of sauce; top with shredded cheese and minced parsley. I like it with crusty bread and olive oil for dipping, a green salad, and an abundance of red wine!