Saturday, August 22, 2009

Pasta Bolognese


It's been a cool summer and this weekend I was in the mood for something rich and hearty. Nothing is more comforting than a bowl of pasta, especially when accompanied with a meaty bolognese. I came across the following recipe from Anne Burrell. I've seen her in action whenever I catch an Iron Chef Competition on the Food Network and have always been curious about her recipes.

Anne's recipe for a bolognese was delicious and was worth the few hours to simmer. The pureed vegetables really allowed their flavors to come out and having the beef brown to create a delicious fond was especially important - so do allow it to brown for that extra flavor! The only thing I changed about this recipe was using low sodium beef broth in place of the water and cut out additional salt I normally would have added if I used water. The end result was a delicious pasta dish that hit the spot...

Pasta Bolognese
recipe adapted from Anne Burrell


1 large onion or 2 small, cut into 1-inch dice
2 large carrots, cut into 1/2-inch dice
3 ribs celery, cut into 1-inch dice
4 cloves garlic
Extra-virgin olive oil, for the pan
Kosher salt
3 pounds ground chuck, brisket or round or combination
2 cups tomato paste
3 cups hearty red wine
Water (I used beef broth to impart more flavor)
3 bay leaves
1 bunch thyme, tied in a bundle
1 pound angel hair pasta
1/2 cup shredded Italian cheese blend to garnish
High quality extra-virgin olive oil, for finishing



In a food processor, puree onion, carrots, celery, and garlic into a coarse paste. In a large pan over medium heat, coat pan with oil. Add the pureed veggies and season generously with salt. Bring the pan to a medium-high heat and cook until all the water has evaporated and they become nice and brown, stirring frequently, about 15 to 20 minutes. Be patient, this is where the big flavors develop.

Add the ground beef and season again generously with salt. Brown the beef and cook for another 15 to 20 minutes.

Add the tomato paste and cook until brown about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the red wine. Cook until the wine has reduced by half, another 4 to 5 minutes.

Add water/beef broth to the pan until it comes to about 1 inch above the meat. Toss in the bay leaves and the bundle of thyme and stir to combine everything. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer, stirring occasionally. As the water/beef broth evaporates you will gradually need to add more, about 2 to 3 cups at a time. Don't be shy about adding water/beef broth during the cooking process, you can always cook it out. This is a game of reduce and add more water. This is where big rich flavors develop. If you try to add all the water in the beginning you will have boiled meat sauce rather than a rich, thick meaty sauce. Stir and taste frequently. Season with salt, if needed (you probably will). Simmer for 3 1/2 to 4 hours.

During the last 30 minutes of cooking, bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat to cook the spaghetti. Pasta water should always be well salted. If your pasta water is under seasoned it doesn't matter how good your sauce is, your complete dish will always taste under seasoned. When the water is at a rolling boil add the spaghetti and cook for 1 minute less than it calls for on the package. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water.

While the pasta is cooking remove 1/2 of the ragu from the pot and reserve.

Drain the pasta and add to the pot with the remaining ragu. Stir or toss the pasta to coat with the sauce. Add some of the reserved sauce, if needed, to make it about an even ratio between pasta and sauce. Add the reserved pasta cooking water and cook the pasta and sauce together over a medium heat until the water has reduced. Turn off the heat and give a big sprinkle of Parmigiano and a generous drizzle of the high quality finishing olive oil. Toss or stir vigorously. Divide the pasta and sauce into serving bowls or 1 big pasta bowl. Top with remaining grated Parmigiano. Serve immediately.