Well, let me explain. This bolognese may not be the quickest recipe, but it’s still easy, and, more importantly, not easily messed up. I’ve made this dish several times over the past couple years so it takes little in the way of brainpower for me to make and share with you all (my main goal these days is to use as little brainpower as possible).
After talking about the best ever roasted potatoes, I thought, what are some of the other “best ever” dishes I’ve had? This bolognese came rushing to the forefront of my mind. I’ve adapted it over the years from Geoffrey Zakarian’s Percatelli with Bolognese recipe. I’ve made it for multiple dinner parties and reveled in leftovers for weeks. I love that it’s impressive enough to share with friends but comforting and simple enough to make on a Sunday night and cram down my gullet for dinner every night the following week.
That’s where the simplicity comes in. You can double, triple, even quadruple, the recipe (though you’d have to have a pretty big pot) and then eat this pasta for weeks. You can freeze half or bring it to a potluck. Speaking of, this is the perfect Christmas Eve meal for your family. Check out How To Throw an Italian Dinner Party for all the yummy goodies you can make with this pasta to impress the fam.
Geoffrey’s original recipe is amaze-balls but it takes even longer than this recipe, cooking both the meat and vegetables separately and slowly over medium heat for about 20-30 minutes and then doing a two-hour simmer. I’ve turned the heat up to medium high and reduced the browning time by half. To me, it doesn’t make a huge difference for the recipe. It actually gives it a bit more flavor because you’re getting more deeply browned bits of meat from the higher heat.
By making little cuts here and there, I was able to trim the recipe time down by almost an hour and a half. I also made some healthy adaptations – subbing in low-sodium chicken stock, nixing the milk, trading in the skirt steak for extra-lean ground beef and making the cheese an optional garnish. When I’m looking to go all out fancy, I buy this luxurious porcini tagliatelle pasta from the market down the street. It’s killer with this sauce. But when I’m looking for a healthier weeknight meal, I use a wheat-free pasta. This time I used a gluten-free tagliatelle and it worked perfectly.
Whatever pasta you decide to use, I just know this will become your favorite bolognese too. Can you say, face plant?
- 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 4 ounces pancetta, diced
- ½ cup dried porcini, soaked, drained and chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 medium onion, finely diced
- 1 large carrot, finely diced
- 1 celery stalk, finely diced
- 1 pound ground pork
- 1 pound extra-lean ground beef
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 4 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1.5 cups red wine
- 2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
- 1 large can San Marzano crushed tomatoes (28 ounces)
- 4 teaspoons chopped fresh basil, plus torn leaves for garnish
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
- 1-2 pounds of your favorite pasta (I recommend a tagliatelle, rigatoni or penne rather than a fine pasta like spaghetti or angel hair as the fine pasta won't stand up to the sauce)
- Pecorino Romano cheese, for garnish
- Heat two tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet set over medium-high heat. Add the pancetta, porcini, garlic, onions and carrots. Cook 6-7 minutes, or until lightly browned, stirring frequently so the vegetables don't burn or stick. Deglaze the pan with a ½ cup red wine.
- Heat two tablespoons olive oil in a dutch oven set over medium-high heat. Add the ground meat and cook for approximately 10 minutes, stirring frequently so the meat browns evenly. Salt and pepper liberally. Then, add the tomato paste and saute for 2 minutes.
- Next, add the vegetables and pancetta to the pot with the meat. Then, add the remaining 1 cup red wine to deglaze the pot. Scrape all the bits and pieces that might accumulate and reduce by half, about 5 minutes. Then, add the chicken stock and crushed tomatoes and simmer very gently for 1.5 hours or until the liquid is absorbed.
- Adjust seasonings to taste (I added a little more salt and pepper at this point). Finish the sauce with the chopped basil and thyme.
- You have two options for serving: (1) You can add the cooked pasta and ½ cup pasta water directly the pot of bolognese sauce and simmer for 2 minutes to incorporate the sauce into the pasta (my preferred method) or (2) You can add the pasta to a plate and spoon the sauce on top of the pasta (Alasdair's preferred method and the method you see in my photos).
- Garnish with the ground Pecorino Romano (optional), torn basil and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil on top.