Jan 14, 2009

My Absolute Favorite Bolognese

I've mentioned my favorite bolognese recipe before – it's this Cooking Light recipe from 2002, and we've loved it from the first time I made it.

But over the years, I've tweaked the recipe a lot to suit our tastes and the limited time I have to cook. Because I now double the quantities and do the simmering in the crock pot, I thought I'd share my current version of this recipe.

Chief Family Officer's Favorite Bolognese (adapted from Cooking Light)
Serves 12 to 16

nonstick cooking spray
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 sweet onion, roughly chopped
3-4 stalks celery, roughly chopped
3-4 carrots, roughly chopped
2 pounds lean ground beef
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons dried basil
salt and black pepper to taste
1 32-oz carton low-sodium chicken broth
2 bay leaves
1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
4 cups whole milk, half and half, or cream
2 tablespoons dried parsley (fresh would be better, but I rarely have it these days)
1 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese

1. Spray a 4 or 6 quart crock with cooking spray. Heat oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Puree garlic, onion, celery and carrot in a food processor and add to oil. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Cook five minutes, stirring frequently. Transfer onion mixture to crock and return pan to stove.

2. Add ground beef, season lightly with salt and pepper, and cook until browned, stirring to crumble. Drain the fat, add the oregano and basil, and cook one more minute, stirring to incorporate the spices. Transfer beef to crock.

3. To the onion and beef mixture in the crock, add the broth, bay leaves and crushed tomatoes. Cover the crock and cook on high for 8-12 hours. After the first hour, prop the lid with a toothpick so some of the steam can escape. (Thanks to Steph at A Year of Crockpotting for this awesome tip - it's transformed the way I use my slow cooker!)

4. At this point, I divide the sauce into four portions. They can all be frozen, and then prepared as follows. But invariably, I freeze three portions, set a pot of water boiling for 1/2 pound of dried pasta, and transfer the fourth portion to a large saucepan. So for the remainder of the recipe, I'm going to assume that you're now working with 1/4 of the original tomato-beef sauce.

5. To the sauce that's now in the saucepan, add 1 cup of whole milk, half and half or cream, and 1/2 tablespoon of dried parsley. Simmer until thick (conveniently, about the same time that the pasta is ready), stirring occasionally. Add drained pasta to the sauce, toss with 1/4 cup grated Parmesan, and serve. (Steamed broccoli or a tossed green salad go great with this.)


Camille said...

Ok, I've searched Stephanie's site (one of my faves, too!) and can't find the answer -- why the toothpick?? :-)

Chief Family Officer said...

@Camille - It's for reducing the sauce, and works amazingly well. I thought the steam would just get caught on the lid and condense but the sauce really does reduce quite a bit over the course of all those hours while the meat gets tender.

Kathy said...

Is the amount of chicken broth correct? I looked at your other recipe where it seemed like a half version of this one and you used 2 14.5 cans. You also used the word carton but most cartons are much more than 14.5 oz. Just double checking ..... Thanks!!

Chief Family Officer said...

Kathy, you're right - the carton is 32 oz. Thanks for spotting that!