OK…perhaps “more quickly prepared” is more accurate. Bolognese sauce is a very traditional, long-simmering, meat sauce for pasta. My method capitalizes on the “quick cooking” aspect rather than the traditional aspect and may give a true Italian pause. But, I love it. Would that I had veal and pork to add to the sauce and 3 hours to slowly simmer it. That would be lovely. But, I do not. I have about an hour these days. This is with homework flying past me, and requests that I jump on the trampoline. I like being asked to jump on the trampoline. I can still do a flip (or flippish-like thing…it is not quite what it used to be).
To make this fast, I have cut a major corner, the exactitude with which I dice my vegetables. I have seen these sauces with simply perfect little cubed dices of carrots. They were awe inspiring. But I am not a chef, nor am I anything of a professional cooking grade. No one yells at me for the quality of my knife work because if they did they would be sent to bed without dinner. So, here, I dispense with the illusion that I am something that I am not and throw my carrots, celery and onion into the food processor for 15 pulses or so. This gives a nice even-ish preparation which is in the pot sweating over melted butter and oil in about 2 minutes. That part alone would take me significantly longer by hand.
Also, I use only ground beef and a fatty grind, at that (85% or so) so it is quite tender right off the bat, and very tender after 30 minutes of simmering. Depending on your stove, this sauce cooks down to a rich, beefy sauce in 30 to 40 minutes. You will need to adjust the time accordingly. The finished sauce should be mostly meat. If it is very soupy, keep simmering. When my kids asked me what Bolognese Sauce is I told them that it is a meat sauce with tomatoes, as opposed to a tomato sauce with meat (which they would call Spaghetti Sauce). This is not spaghetti sauce. It is a meat sauce. When in question, simmer and reduce further. I served this with a darling spiral tube pasta, but tagliatelle is quite traditional. You want a pasta to which the meat will stick. Spaghetti noodles may not be the best choice.
Recipe for Quick Bolognese Sauce: (4 generous servings)
3 medium carrots
½ large onion
3 stalks celery
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 thick slice of bacon
1½ pound ground beef
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup milk
2½ cups chicken stock
1 (15 ounce) can diced tomatoes
½ teaspoon dried basil
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
16 ounces dried pasta, cooked according to directions
1. In a large stockpot, melt the butter with the olive oil. Add the slice of bacon and allow it to render and brown slightly for one minute.
2. Meanwhile, rinse the carrots, onion and celery and chop them into large chunks. Place them into a food processor and using the “pulse” button, chop them until they are finely and uniformly chopped, about 15 to 17 pulses. Add the vegetables to the fat and bacon and sauté them for six minutes over medium heat. Add the ground beef and cook until it is no longer pink. Turn off the stove and tip the pot slightly to remove excess fat with a paper towel. Using a paper towel, dab out the excess fat. Discard the paper towels.
3. Resume cooking at medium-high heat. Add the tomato paste and stir it to meat. Pour the wine into the pot and use a spatula to scrape the browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Then, pour in 1 cup of milk and stir to combine. Simmer until the milk has reduced by half. Add 2½ cups of chicken stock and the diced tomatoes. Add the basil, salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Keep the sauce on a low boil for 30 minutes, or until the sauce is greatly reduced and the meat is tender. You may remove the slice of bacon before serving. The sauce should be meaty. Serve with your favorite pasta and freshly shredded parmesan cheese.
Note: I am not trying to make a list of my not-so-professional ways, but I also assume a trained chef would cringe at me dabbing the fat out of my pot with paper towels. But, I’m a weakling and that pot is heavy…and I don’t want to do any more dishes than I absolutely have to. So, dab I do. But take a dish over to unload the sodden paper towels from the pot. They are drippy and hot.
Some of my other favorite pasta dishes: