Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Spaghetti Bolognese on My Mind

Red Phragmipedium Painting
Red Phragmipedium Painting
It has been almost a month since I last came here to write. I had so much going on for so long, and then it was suddenly quiet. In that silence, I went to other pursuits. I decided to recreate some old cookbooks. I painted. My painting exhibit at the Dacotah Prairie Museum opens on May 31st, so I had been painting more pictures. I have sufficient, but now that I see the quality of my recent work (my latest painting at right) versus some of my very early paintings, I wanted more in the newer, better look. I have cooked, but not with dedication, nor with a lot of inspiration. 

Still, periodically I get inspired, and that happened about 10 days ago with Spaghetti Bolognese. I can't even recall what brought me to that dish. I had made Spaghetti Bolognese in the past, using a recipe in my old, old copy of "The Joy of Cooking".  I liked it well enough, but my husband - not so much. 

Wherever I heard of it this time, I sat down to think about what I remembered: 
  • It had bacon in it
  • It had vegetables like celery and carrots, unusual in spaghetti
  • it had cream or some milk added  
Spaghetti Bolognese over Penne Pasta
Spaghetti Bolognese over Penne Pasta

So here I was that day, with some thawing hamburger meat and this came up, so I just ran with it and came up with what turned out to be an extremely flavorful dish, and best of all, my husband loved it!

Of late, he has been favoring pasta dishes with some sort of shape other than spaghetti, linguine or fettuccine. He has liked the shells or penne much more. So, I opted to serve my Spaghetti Bolognese sauce over penne. We both totally pigged out. It was so good. It felt great to get back into the creation of something totally new and really flavorful.

Funny that this came up for me so recently, and then a few days ago Mario Batali made Spaghetti Bolognese on The Chew. Mario used milk in his version, rather than cream, and cooked it long and slow with the milk added. In my version I used cream and added it only at the end of cooking. For sure, I could have used milk - but I didn't have any. I did have cream, so that was what I used. He used wine in the dish, where I chose a small amount of balsamic vinegar, giving a little sweet note. I believe Mario's version had ground pork in it. I thought of this, or even of using Italian sausage, but I also had none in the house, so it was just ground beef. I would love to someday cook a roast and chop it to use as the meat rather than hamburger. But that will be another day, another time.

So, I sat down to compose what sounded good to me as a working recipe, and this is what I came up with. It came out so well that I am posting it here with high recommendations! Obviously, this sauce can be served over spaghetti, or fettuccine or linguine. We loved how it went on and into the penne.

Spaghetti Bolognese 

serves 6 to 8
Spaghetti Bolognese
Spaghetti Bolognese

4 strips bacon, sliced across thinly
1 large onion, chopped
4 - 6 cloves garlic, minced
1 large carrot (or 2 small), peeled, sliced, grated
2 stalks celery, sliced thinly
1 pound ground beef, or beef and pork
1/4 cup Balsamic vinegar
1 large (29 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 can (6 ounce) tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1 bay leaf
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup heavy cream, or 3/4 cup milk

In a large soup pot, fry the bacon until crisp. Remove the bacon to paper toweling to drain, reserving 1 tablespoon of drippings in the pot. Add in the onion, garlic, carrots and celery and cook until all the vegetables are softened. Add in the ground beef and cook, breaking apart the meat finely, until no pink is left. Add the balsamic vinegar and cook quickly to evaporate the liquid.

Once the liquid has mostly cooked out, add in the tomato sauce and paste, the reserved bacon and all the herbs and seasonings and cook, covered for about 1/2 hour over low heat to combine flavors. Just before serving, add in the cream and stir to combine. Serve over your pasta of choice and top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. I am also on a spiritual journey and hope you will join me at my new blog, An Eagle Flies.