I think it’s pretty obvious that I have a strong affinity for pasta. Might I even say that it’s stronger than my love for hot dogs?! Pasta has all the makings of the perfect meal. It’s versatile – it can be eaten from a bowl (or pot) on the couch or be dished out as a nice sit down dinner with vino. It can be healthy (ish) as long as it is not laden with butter, cream and cheese (I’m obviously not opposed to that though). Making it can also be low involvement.
This bolognese sauce checks all three of the perfect food boxes. I made it one cold February evening. I was feeling relatively healthy after coming from a Lagree class and found myself hosting more people than expected for a Grammy’s viewing dinner pawty.
The sauce is relatively easily to put together with most of the grunt work of chopping veggies front loaded. Once everything is in the pot, all you have to do is get your sister to keep an eye on it and stir every so often while you shower. As I was putting the sauce together, Natalie (my sous chef) remarked how similar the herbs and spices were to Jamie Oliver’s mulled wine, which I never stopped making in the winter. Interesting how versatile some spices and herbs are and lend themselves so differently to sweet and savory dishes, I thought to myself, as I ordered Natalie to stir the sauce every so often while I showered. By the time I got out of the shower, the sauce was bubbling along nicely and almost ready for serving.
P.S. I like to dice the veggies up into smaller pieces so everything can be twirled up easily with your fork. But if you prefer something more rustic like eating a yummy stew over pasta, you can cut the veggies into larger chunks, which is what Natalie did (as shown in the pictures).
Spiced (Mulled Wine) Bolognese
Adapted from Emeril Lagasse
Serves 4 to 6
Box of spaghetti
0.5 kg ground beef, pork or turkey
2 celery, diced
1 carrot, diced
2 medium onions, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp thyme
1 cup red wine
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 can (28 oz) crushed tomatoes
1 cup beef stock
1-2 tbsp sugar
Salt and black pepper
Parmesan cheese, grated
Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a large pot. Add celery, carrot, onion and garlic. Saute until softened, around 5 minutes. Add cinnamon, nutmeg, bay leaves, oregano and thyme, and stir until fragrant.
Add the ground meat to the pot, breaking up the meat with your spatula as it cooks. When no longer pink, stir in tomato paste and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the red wine to deglaze the pot, scraping up any bits stuck to the bottom of the pot. Cook until about half of the liquid is evaporated.
Add crushed tomatoes, beef stock and sugar and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover the pot with a wooden spatula between the lid and pot to keep a small crack. Simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to boil. Salt the water generously and cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and keep aside until ready to serve.
Adjust seasoning for the sauce to taste. If it seems too liquid-y, simmer uncovered for 5 to 10 minutes.
Add pasta to sauce and toss to mix. Portion into serving bowls and garnish with as much cheese as your heart desires.