Stella’s Spaghetti Bolognese

So, I had a pound of beef, some pasta, and no idea what to make for lunch during the Ravens-Texans game (go, Ravens!). I hadn’t had Bolognese sauce since living in England more than five years ago, so I decided to give it a try. Pasta Bolognese seemed to be the most popular Italian dish in the UK a few years back, and it was on every Italian menu, as well as a lot of pub menus, not to mention available in frozen form at the supermarket! This Bolognese, while fairly straightforward, is far superior to the Tesco version. I will definitely be adding this one to my regular pasta rotation.

This classic sauce was registered in 1982 by the Bolognese delegation of the Accademia Italiana della Cucina and stipulates the ingredients as: beef (skirt steak), pancetta, onions, carrot, celery (stalk), tomato paste, meat broth, red dry wine (not bubbling), milk, salt and pepper to taste. There are, of course, multiple regional variations, however; let’s consider this the variazione del texan.

For this recipe, I cheated on on the soffritto, skipping the carrots altogether, added some spices I had on hand (an idea I got from Emeril Lagasse), and left out the pancetta (since I didn’t have–or want–any). I also used spaghetti instead of tagliatelle, a typically American modification (though I love tagliatelle!). Finally, I served the sauce on top of the pasta, which I mixed with the cream and butter, rather than mixing it all together as the Italians would be more likely to do. Eccola!

Stella’s Bolognese Sauce
1 lb. ground beef
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp celery salt
1/2 tsp thyme
1/4 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
~4 oz. tomato paste (half a small can)
1/2 cup red wine
1 tsp raw sugar

For the pasta
1 lb. spaghetti
3 Tbsp butter
1/4 cup cream
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 cup finely grated parmesan

1. Add olive oil, beef, onions, garlic, salt, and pepper to a large skillet and stir over medium heat until just cooked through, breaking up the meat with your spatula.

2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook spaghetti until al dente, about 10 minutes.

3. As meat cooks through, add herbs and spices. Reduce heat to medium low. Add tomato paste and stir thoroughly. After about three minutes, as tomato paste is absorbed, add wine. Stir again and allow to simmer until alcohol is cooked off, about five minutes. Finally, sprinkle with sugar and stir again. You can cook this sauce for as long as you want, actually – just keep adding water and reduce heat to a simmer. It will become richer with every minute cooked.

4. Drain pasta and return to pot, away from heat source. Add butter, cream, and pepper, and stir thoroughly. Add half the parmesan and stir again, until cheese is absorbed into pasta.

5. Spoon spaghetti into pasta bowls and top with generous heaps of the beef sauce. Garnish with remaining parmesan, and serve immediately.

Serves 4-6, either as one of several courses, or as a main or single course.

Sauce refrigerates well for up to five days.


2 thoughts on “Stella’s Spaghetti Bolognese

  1. It was pretty easy and delicious, if I may say so myself!

    I actually used a homemade berry wine we picked up from relatives in North Carolina on our return Christmas road trip!

    Maybe some of these, recommended by various wine connoiseurs for drinking alongside Bolognese, would be good:

    Some recipes call for white wine, some for red. It’s already pretty rich, so keep in mind that using red will make it even heavier. I tend to be a little on the rich side of moderate, so I would use red myself. But a dry white wine would also be excellent. I think, really, whatever you have on hand would be good – but drier would be better.

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