I think that the key to the best bolognese sauce all starts with your meat. For real. And honestly, for any of my ground meat-centric meals, I try really hard to stay away from just one kind of meat. I like the way flavors just intensify when you combine meats: beef with a little pork, or a little veal if I can find it, or even a little lamb, which has that really strong earthiness to it! And especially for bolognese, the meat is pretty darn important! Well, that and the kind of tomatoes you use.
How many of you reading this right now have noticed that jarred tomato sauce gives you heart burn? *Cooking Maggie raises her hand* Yeah, it’s not pleasant, however easy it may be to just dump the whole jar in after browning that meat and calling it a day. As I’ve gotten older, I have gotten a little more sensitive to acidic levels, which has made eating one of my favorite things in the world an incredibly uncomfortable affair. Thus, I was left with the task of finding a way to make my sauce from scratch, rather than from a jar or a can (because certain canned tomatoes have a TON of acid in them still).
I’ve already written about my tomato sauce (courtesy of Katie Lee from Food Network), and I found a pomodoro sauce from Bon Appétit that I’m super stoked to try out (and get this, THERE’S BUTTER IN IT! *gasp & delighted giggle*), but with the tomato sauce, I simply used it as a base guideline for my recipe, but added a lot of those other essentials that really help build body to this sauce. And what bolognese would be complete without your mirepoix (meer – puwah), which is just a fancy French way of referring to the holy trinity of veggies: onion, celery, and carrots. This already is adding some bright notes of sweetness and acidity, but also adding a little more texture amid soft ground meat and
mushy tomatoes (and yes, I said mushy, but in the best, most delicious “I might put my face into this pot” kind of way, though perhaps soft is a better word) soft tomatoes.
And speaking of tomatoes, here’s my main tip for you (courtesy of my wonderful friend Melissa, who has been my guinea pig for many a dish in my kitchen): BOXED tomatoes. You heard me right. BOXED. And here’s why: boxed tomatoes, specifically Pomi, which you can find in your pasta aisle by the tubed tomato paste (I’m a total convert of this as well, love it), are typically BPA Free, contain no additives (literally the only ingredient listed on the label is tomatoes), so in my opinion, that’s an automatic win for the boxed tomatoes! And they just taste better. Honestly, compare an instant spoon taste between the two and I promise you’ll notice the difference.
Oh, and finally, just because this is the pièce de résistance, definitely save some of that pasta water to loosen things up again after the sauce has reduced and developed a little more! It’s that last little *kisses fingertips* of salt that really takes a tomato based pasta sauce to that last level of mm mm goodness. If you haven’t been doing that, try it next time you make bolognese, pomodoro, puttanesca, or really just about any tomato based sauce, and I can almost promise you won’t be disappointed! Oh, and definitely feel free to top it all off with a little parm or mozz & some malden salt for that extra tangy pop of crunch! Now, excuse me while I go drool my way back to the stove to make some for myself. — Cooking Maggie
One of the things my Mamaw loved most on her pasta was meat sauce. She’d always make sure when she ordered her pasta that it would be the meat sauce, not the tomato sauce, because she loved how the meat added extra flavor to her pasta and that it was easy to chew since her teeth weren’t very strong anymore. This recipe is my take on the classic bolognese because, like my Mamaw, I have always preferred the hearty complexity of a meat sauce over your basic tomato sauce, and every time I make this, I think of her. This is a great sauce to make in bulk for large gatherings and cold, rainy days, a true family dish that will bring everyone to the table.
- 1 large carrot
- 1 celery stick
- 1 brown onion
- 2 garlic cloves
- Olive oil
- 1/2 lb ground beef
- 1/2 lb ground pork (or veal, or lamb)
- 2 tbsp tomato paste (from a tube, not a can, but if you do use a can, up the amount to 4 tbsp)
- 1 box of crushed tomatoes
- 1 large handful of finely chopped basil (plus more for topping)
- 1 tsp marjoram
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- 2 tsp dried parsley
- Salt and Pepper
- Finely chop carrot, celery, onion, and garlic in a food processor.
- Cook this mixture in a large saucepan with olive oil over medium heat for about 10 minutes.
- Add ground beef and cook until well-browned.
- Add tomato paste, tomatoes, marjoram, basil, bay leaves, oregano, and parsley.
- Cook over very low heat for about 1-2 hours.
- Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with pasta, parm cheese, and fresh basil to top. Even top with some malden finishing salt for an added crunch and burst of tartness.