In which the world of culinary hedonism is explored with a cup and a half of curiosity, a heaping tablespoon of passion and a dash of clumsiness.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Sixty-third Post ~ Pasta Bolognese

I have always loved bolognese sauce over pasta. I typically get it on trips or in restaurants, and never paused to question what was in it that made it so extraordinary. I was on a mission for a Great Fridge and Freezer Clean Out today, and happened upon a quarter pound of hamburger and a half jar of spaghetti sauce in my freezer. I began to ponder what to do with it (beyond the obvious) when the wonderful word "Bolognese!" popped into my head.

So be it.

It turns out, my friends, that bolognese is given its distinctive taste by three surprise ingredients. Let us take the first:

Mirepoix. Mirepoix, as it turns out, is much less mysterious than I had given it credit for when I would encounter it in French recipes (and promptly click "NEXT" for what I assumed would be something easier and less cryptic). Fear not! Mirepoix is simply chopped onion, celery and carrots. It's the base for many French dishes. Now, when you say "onion, celery and carrots," I am immediately put in mind of my Mama's chicken soup. Given my firm belief in this dish's healing properties, it's no mystery to me why this combination of three vegetables is known as one collective noun and is so popular in so many dishes.

The second mystery ingredient needed to turn your spaghetti sauce into bolognese is red wine. I chose to use a generous splash of a Spanish tempranillo and I think it was a good call. I've always noticed that bolognese is a bit deeper of a shade of red than most tomato-based sauces, and I feel this is the reason.

The third mystery ingredient is milk. Now, here's where I am going to show my colors: I am German. Butter and salt are food groups for us. Where recipes I've encountered have called for a splash of milk, I have used heavy cream instead. I made the same call for this recipe, and have read that I'm not the first, historically, to do so. Anyway, there's red wine in it, so surely we've already counter-balanced the health aspect of the meal...

So here's what you'll need to make Pasta Bolognese à la Accidental Chef:

~ Hamburger
~ Spaghetti sauce (I used Wegman's tomato basil)
~ Mirepoix (minced onion, celery and carrots. It's perfectly okay to pick some celery and carrots out of the veggie tray sent home with you from a family get-together).
~ Olive oil
~ Red wine
~ Heavy cream (or milk)
~ Pasta
~ Coarse-ground sea salt
~ Pepper

Start your water boiling and cook your pasta as per usual. While the pasta is cooking, mince some onion, celery and carrot and toss it into some olive oil in a skillet. Savor the aroma of these so-called "aromatics" as they simmer. Add the hamburger. Salt and pepper to taste.

:: PAUSE ::

Here's where I should have been a little more patient: let the mirepoix and hamburger simmer for quite a bit. I hastily added the tomato sauce as soon as the hamburger was done, and it could have benefited from melding together a bit more. The end result was still good, but I'd recommend giving the meat and mirepoix a little bit of patience. Just a little.


After the mirepoix and hamburger have had a chance to simmer together lengthily in your pan, add some red wine and then some pasta sauce. After you've stirred it all together, add just a splash of heavy cream. Watch it instantly turn into a beautiful blend of Italian goodness.

Serve over spaghetti. Garnish with parsley if you wish. A true bolognese would have been served with a dusting of grated parmesan, but, alas, I had none; neither parmesan nor even pecorino romano remained in my fridge. A sad day, truly, but I have faith that I shall attempt this recipe again, and when I do, I will have a generous sprinkling of parmesan over all!

I paired this dinner with the last of a delightful Spanish red by Protocolo. This wine paired beautifully with a classic roast beef, and brought out the essence of the root vegetables and yet was strong enough to stand up to the beef and tomato sauce in tonight's meal. All in all, a great pairing!

Yours in the love of good food and wine,

The blogger is not an experienced chef. She takes no responsibility for the quality of the meals prepared while following her advice. Use your own judgment regarding cooking times and proper food handling.