Home cooks are pretty amazing because a home cook also has a life outside the kitchen. It’s not always easy managing a busy day and then getting dinner on the table at night. Spaghetti Bolognese, a meaty sauce with ground beef and red wine (originating in Bologna, Italy) is a dish you can easily pull together with ingredients that are pantry staples (in fact it’s the most requested dinner in the Currie house). There’s flexibility to swap too like bacon for pancetta, white wine for red wine, ground turkey for ground beef. The dish may not be quite as authentic but no less comforting.
Layering flavor: The secret to great Bolognese is to layer the ingredients one at a time. Starting with pancetta (unsmoked Italian bacon), then ground beef, which not only provide a rich foundation and the key ingredient, but the fat that’s rendered is used to cook the veggies, which are the next layer of flavor. Wine and tomatoes provide the kick and the final layer; milk adds a richness that is the signature of Bolognese.
Active vs. inactive cooking time: Cooking time in a recipe can be misleading because much of that time is inactive meaning the food is actually cooking so you can do something else. Okay…you don’t want to run to the gym or take a nap, but you can make a salad, bake a batch of cookies or fold a load of laundry all while your Bolognese is cooking.
Do-ahead two ways: Simplify your weeknight dinner by planning ahead. Make a double batch and freeze half for another night. Or stock your freezer and pantry with Bolognese ingredients so you can throw it all together quit easily. Ground beef and pancetta are fine in the freezer for 3-4 months as long as you thaw them properly.
- 4 ounces pancetta, diced
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 1 small onion, peeled and diced
- 1 carrot, peeled and diced
- 2 garlic cloves, smashed and chopped
- ½ cup good drinking red wine
- 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes (preferably fire roasted)
- ½ cup whole milk
- Salt and pepper
- 1-pound spaghetti, al dente
- Freshly grated Parmesan
- In a large dry skillet, cook pancetta over medium heat until fat is rendered, about 10 minutes. Add beef to same pan and continue cooking until browned, about 10 more minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove pancetta/beef mixture and drain onto a paper towel lined plate. Drain fat in skillet except about 1 teaspoon.
- Over medium heat, add onion, carrot and garlic and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Add red wine and cook until almost evaporated. Add the pancetta/beef mixture back to the pan followed by the crushed tomatoes. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, cover and cook 30 minutes. Stir in milk and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve over spaghetti with a sprinkle of grated Parmesan.