Martha Stewart’s One-Pan Pasta

The promise:  a pasta sauce and a pasta that can be cooked in one pan.  I was intrigued, but skeptical.  No initial sautee of onion and garlic in olive oil to bring out flavor?  Cooking pasta in a mere four cups of water?  I’m usually sheepishly conscious I am not using enough, thanks to my impatience at waiting for the watched pot to (seemingly never) boil?

One-Pan Pasta (2 of 7)

The result–not bad, not bad at all.  When finished I was worried that the abundance of pasta relative to the flecks of tomato and onion would result in a bland dish.  The oil evenly coats every silky strand, infusing eat forkful with plenty of garlic, basil, and onion, and a surprising (but welcome) bit of heat from the pepper flakes. Because everything cooks so quickly, all the constituent parts retain their freshness, meaning this works well as a nice summery dish, and is brighter than just dumping out a jar of pasta sauce over a bowl of spaghetti.  And it might just be faster to prepare.

One-Pan Pasta (3 of 7)

This is not a household that can usually manage both primi and secondi:  we’re talking one main dish here.  And this pasta is more first course than main event, though with a few sides (would that be contorni since we’re doing the foreign language thing?)  it would manage that just fine.  Yet it’s so easy I can imagine myself adding this in as a first course even without having to summon up too much ambition.  And I’ll certainly keep it in mind if we ever manage to get ourselves organized enough to have another dinner party.  As I’ve learned before, pasta dishes can be a lifesaver at such events.

One-Pan Pasta (4 of 7)

I’ve made this with both the cappellini shown below, as well as with penne, and it’s worked out nicely both times.  Both times as a spur of the moment type thing.  It’s so nice to just breezily “whip something up” like that.

One-Pan Pasta (5 of 7)

 

Martha Stewart’s One-Pan Pasta
Author: adapted from[url href=”http://www.marthastewart.com/978784/one-pan-pasta”%5D Martha Stewart Living[/url]
Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 10 mins
Total time: 25 mins
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 12 ounces linguine (or other pasta)
  • 12 ounces chopped tomato (if using cherry or grape tomatoes, halve or quarter depending on size).
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
  • 2 sprigs basil, plus torn leaves for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 1/2 cups water Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving
Instructions
  1. Combine pasta, tomatoes, onion, garlic, red-pepper flakes, basil, oil, 2 teaspoons salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and water in a large straight-sided skillet. Bring to a boil over high heat. Boil mixture, stirring and turning pasta frequently with tongs, until pasta is al dente and water has nearly evaporated, about 9 minutes.
  2. Season to taste with salt and pepper, divide among 4 bowls, and garnish with basil. Serve with oil and Parmesan.
Notes
I have found that the amount of water called for may be a touch too much. This may depend on the type of pasta you use, but I’ve been scaling down amounts from the original recipe (which quantities are included here).

One-Pan Pasta (6 of 7)

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Sfoglini’s Zucchini Radiatore Pasta and a visit to Wedge Brooklyn

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For all you Brooklynites or vistors to the area, I have found a nice little gem in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.  It’s a new little cheese shop called Wedge and it’s a great new store to the area.

There are many little items to browse through in the store, but their big ticket item is the cheese. There are all sorts of other products to buy like jam, condiments and different beverages. They even have picnic baskets to buy to take to the park!

Now, I should be writing about all the cheeses I’ve tried, but, well… I haven’t tried them yet. I’m really quite disappointed in myself. Please don’t stop reading. There is more to this blog.

Even though it is in many ways not as exciting as cheese,  I have been trying a pasta they sell called Sfoglini!  It’s a great organic pasta that is made with semolina flour.  I know that “it’s just pasta.” So, why not get the cheaper kind at the grocery store? But I have to say I’m hooked. I’m not sure what exactly makes it taste so good (probably the semolina flour), but the pastas has a very hearty taste to them and they taste far more filling than normal pasta I have cooked in the past.

When I went to their website at sfoglini.com, I also read they use bronze dies which adds to the texture of the pasta. Also, they air dry the pasta which adds to the flavor. Clearly, I’m not making pasta at home so I think for 10 dollars this is a great find.

The nice thing is they make a variety of pastas that I think are fairly unique. They have a great pasta called Mint Radiator. It’s made with pureed fresh mint and it’s divine. I’ve also bought a pasta that is called “trumpets” which basically are shaped like a “flower or horn.”

Mint Radiators

I’ve made two pasta dishes so far but my favorite of the two is “Mint Radiators with Yellow Zucchini”

This dish can be made on any weeknight. It’s very filling and the zucchini makes me feel like I don’t have to made a side salad or cook another vegetable. (I’m a big fan of the one dish dinner).

Mint Radiators with Yellow Zucchini
Recipe Type: Vegetarian/Main Dish
Author: Sfoglini.com
Ingredients
  • 6 oz Sfoglini Mint Radiators
  • 2 1/2 oz yellow zucchini (cut in moons)
  • 1 oz diced red onion
  • 1 oz chopped kalamata olives
  • 6 chopped mint leaves
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
  • pinch of chili flakes
  • salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. Heat 3 quarts of salted water in a large pot and bring to a boil.
  2. Add pasta and cook for 5-8 minutes.
  3. While pasta is cooking, saute the zucchini and onions in 1 tbsp of olive oil over medium to high heat.
  4. After about 1 minute, add the olives and a pinch of salt and 1-2 tbsp of the pasta water so the onions don’t caramelize.
  5. Cook for another 2 minutes making sure the zucchini stays firm.
  6. Add the pasta, 1 tbsp of olive oil and 2 tbsp of cheese and a splash of pasta water to saute pan and stir together.
  7. Toss in mint leaves and a pinch of red chili flakes.
  8. Cook for another 2-3 minutes.
  9. Add salt and pepper to taste and top off with grated cheese.

If you are interested in going to Wedge yourself click below for hours and address.

Wedge

7288 Franklin Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11238

https://www.facebook.com/wedgeonfranklin

http://www.yelp.com/biz/wedge-brooklyn

To learn more about Sfolgini, here’s the link below:

http://sfoglini.com

Linguine with Cauliflower Pesto

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I was so excited to finally get The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook from my library after being on the waiting list for over a month! My sister, of course, has it as well as many friends who all highly recommend it.  It’s a great book for small kitchens, and for people that love vegetarian options for dinner (with a lot of cheese).

It’s a hit for me because I (1) have a tiny kitchen, (2) love cheese and don’t always need to eat meat and (3) have a little baby just like the author of the book had when she wrote it. There are many dishes I’m going to be trying over the next month (if I can keep the book out that long) and the first one I tried was Linguine with Cauliflower Pesto.

The author, Deb Perelman, was inspired by a dish at Gramercy Tavern in Manhattan.  I have never been to this restaurant, but have always wanted to go as it’s one of those “must-go-to” places in the city.

This is also a good recipe to make in stages. With a little one around, it was easy to stop and start. I was able to make the pesto in the afternoon and then not make the pasta until about a half hour before I had dinner. In Deb’s book, she even talks about how she made this dish especially when she had a newborn. I thought it quite suitable to start out with this recipe first.

Cauliflower Pesto Pasta
Recipe Type: Vegetarian/Main Dish
Cuisine: American
Author: Deb Perelman
Ingredients
  • salt
  • 1 small head of cauliflower (trimmed, cored, and cut into large chunks)
  • 1 garlic clove
  • Generous pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup of pine nuts (or almonds)
  • 2 oz chunk romano or parmesan
  • 4 sun dried tomatoes (dry variety; if oil-packed, be sure to drain and mince them by hand before putting them in the food processor)
  • 1 tbsp drained capers
  • few tbsp of parsley leaves
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp sherry vinegar (to taste)
  • 1 lb of linguine
Instructions
  1. Set a large of salted water to boil.
  2. Prepare pesto: Pulse half the cauliflower in a food processor until it looks like mixed sizes of couscous. Transfer the cauliflower to a large bowl, and repeat with the second batch, adding it to the same bowl when you are finished.
  3. Pulse the garlic, pepper flakes, almonds (or pine nuts), cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, capers, and parsley in a food processor.
  4. Transfer to the bowl with cauliflower and add the olive oil, the smaller amount of vinegar, and some salt and stir until completely combined. (If you do this step in the food processor, it becomes an unseemly paste. Best to do it by hand.)
  5. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed–either by adding salt, pepper or remainder of vinegar. (start out with about 1/2 tsp of salt but go up to nearly a full tsp)
  6. Assemble Dish: Once water is boiling, add the linguine and cook until al dente.
  7. Reserve a cup of the cooking water then drain rest.
  8. Immediately toss the hot pasta with the cauliflower pesto and half of your reserved cooking water, until everything is nicely dispersed.

In her cookbook she recommends cutting up the cauliflower chunks by hand that don’t easily cut in the food processor, but I found no problem with this.  You will know the pesto is ready when it looks like “course breadcrumbs.”  The recipe can be modified to fit your tastes and if I make this again I will probably add more pine nuts (only because I love them) and maybe a couple more splashes of sherry vinegar which adds a nice bite.

The recipe does request you mix the pesto immediately with the pasta and water, but I had to refrigerate mine (not sure this was necessary) for a couple of hours before I served it, and I think it tasted just fine. I did have to work harder to make sure the ingredients were dispersed evenly, but other than that I was satisfied and so was my husband who can sometimes picky! It was fabulous for leftovers.

Pesto Cauliflower

Orecchiette with Escarole and Bread Crumbs

I am often stymied by how to turn the greens I buy at the grocery store into something that feels like a main dish, and not just a side that leaves me wondering where the lamb chop went.  Even though I’m not a tremendous meat eater, I find myself craving the idea of it–some central organizing principle for the meal.  It’s so easy to just build a dinner around a savory slab of protein.

But it’s also equally easy to toss just about anything with pasta and call it a meal as well.  As long it’s a sufficiently interesting combination, you’re good to go.

Orecchiette with Escarole and Bread Crumbs (9 of 9)

Here, I use escarole, which is wilted and then sauteed with anchovies for savoriness and hot pepper for extra bit.  If you’re unfamiliar with escarole, you might recongize it under its alias of chicory or endive.  It’s tender enough to eat fresh in a salad but sturdy enough to withstand the heat of the pan.  Italians, it turns out, are big fans of bitter greens like this (think broccoli rabe or radicchio).  Of the five tastes–sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami–it seems that bitter is so often shunned (at least in the U.S.), so I’ve been fascinated to learn how important a component it is in many world cuisines.  Of course it’s an acquired taste, (do I sound like a mother or what?) but take heart:  wilting the escarole draws out much of the bitterness.  If you’re still unconvinced, just try kale, but give it a try–I’ve come to love these flavors, and it keeps my tastebuds on their toes!

Orecchiette with Escarole and Bread Crumbs (1 of 9)

Whatever green you pick is tossed with crunchy fried bread crumbs and of course finished with some nice parmesan cheese. (There’s even recipes that would omit the greens entirely and just serve fried bread crumbs over pasta–ultimate humble fare). And orecchiette are always fun, for no other reason than that they mean “little ears”–though they catch those crumbs and cheese really well too.

Orecchiette with Escarole and Bread Crumbs (4 of 9)

A lot of bold flavors, a satisfying meal, and an easy way to eat those leafy greens everyone is always on us about.  And more good news:  this recipe is ready in just over the time it takes to boil the pasta.  “Just over” because you dip the greens into your boiling vat of water for a few minutes before lifting them out and sliding the pasta in.  But since you re-use the water, it’s an extra step that’s hardly onerous.

Enjoy!

Orecchiette with Escarole and Bread Crumbs
Ingredients
  • 1 pound escarole (or kale or other green) about 2 large bunches), stems trimmed
  • Kosher salt
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 cup coarse fresh breadcrumbs
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped, divided
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter
  • 4 anchovy fillets packed in oil, drained
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 pound orecchiette (little ear-shaped pasta)
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan or Grana Padano
Instructions
  1. Working in batches if necessary, cook the escarole or other green in a large pot of boiling salted water until just tender, about 4 minutes. Using tongs or a skimmer (don’t dump the water out!) transfer to a colander over the sink. Toss frequently to accelerate cooling, and when cool enough to handle, squeeze out the excess water. Chop the leaves stems and set aside.
  2. Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add breadcrumbs and cook, stirring often, until beginning to brown, about 4 minutes. Add one-third of chopped garlic and cook, stirring often, until breadcrumbs are golden, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and transfer to a paper towel-lined plate; let cool.
  3. Heat the butter and remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large heavy pot over medium-low heat. Add the anchovies, red pepper flakes, and remaining two-thirds of chopped garlic; cook, mashing anchovies with a spoon, until a paste forms, about 2 minutes. Add reserved kale and 1/2 cup water. Cook, stirring often, until escarole is warmed through, about 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Meanwhile, return the water you used to cook the escarole back to a boil. Add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain, but reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking liquid.
  5. Add pasta and 1/2 cup pasta cooking liquid to escarole mixture and stir until well mixed. Increase heat to medium and continue stirring, adding more cooking liquid as needed, until the liquid is absorbed. (The starch in the cooking water helps bind the “sauce” to the pasta). Mix in the cheese and 1/2 cup breadcrumbs; toss to combine. Portion the pasta and drizzle additional oil over each serving. Sprinkle with the remaining bread crumbs.

 

 

Orecchiette with Escarole and Bread Crumbs (7 of 9)

 

Butternut Squash Agnolotti with Sage Two Ways, and a Giveaway!

Some of the best savory dishes have just a touch of something sweet.  Maybe it’s just because I have an incorrigible sweet tooth, or maybe it’s because it’s just a little bit out of the ordinary.  And yet perhaps not so far out of the ordinary:  from honey mustard to meats braised with fruit to all the sweetness unearthed in a root vegetable, the line blurs a bit more than you’d expect.

Butternut Ravioli in Sage Brown Butter (3 of 6)

Recently Buitoni contacted us to try one of their new products, Roasted Butternut Squash Agnolotti (which is really just a pretty twist on ravioli–the pasta packet is made by folding a rectangle of dough in half to encase the filling, rather than ravioli where you sandwich it between two squares).  I recognized the inspiration for this pasta immediately:  the classic Italian combination of pasta with butternut squash, aged cheeses,  and amaretti–those intensely almondy, crumbly Italian cookies.  And I knew it instantly because it was a dish I unsuccesfully tried to chase down when my husband and I took our last big trip, B.C., to Florence Italy (B.C. as in, before children).  The server would shake his or her head, and inform me mi dispiace, but it wasn’t available that day.  Since I had chianina beef, wild boar stew, vin santo with cantucci wine, and freshly foraged mushrooms, I didn’t suffer too much.  Even so, I still recall my  thwarted attempts to incorporate cookies into my main meal.

Butternut Ravioli in Sage Brown Butter (1 of 6)

With an abundance of sage in my backyard herb garden, it only made sense to go grab a few handfuls to try with my agnolotti, and to try it a few different ways.

Butternut Ravioli in Sage Brown Butter (6 of 6)

One of the classic ways to enjoy this pasta dish is to dress it in a sage-brown butter sauce.  It’s remarkably simple to make but still feels elegant and just a bit fancy.  And who am I to argue with Italian culinary tradition (or carte blanche to use lots of brown butter?)  I’ve talked about brown butter before–it’s simply butter that you melt, and then keep cooking until it starts to caramelize.  It happens quickly, so you have to watch closely to make sure not to burn it, but it’s always easy for me to tell when it’s done:  a nutty aroma suddenly rises up from the pan and hits you, and you just know.  (In French, brown butter is called beurre noisette, in direct reference to that rich nuttiness).  It’s true kitchen alchemy (and terribly addictive).  And if you toss some sage leaves in the butter as you’re browning it, it’s the perfect companion to these agnolotti.

Butternut Ravioli in Sage Brown Butter (2 of 6)

Baked Butternut Ravioli (3 of 6)

As for the second take:  I’ve been making bechamel sauces a lot lately to make gratins with all those greens that come in my CSA box.  But like classic lasagna bolognese, or no less classic oven-baked macaroni and cheese, bechamel is an ideal base for baked pasta.  Bechamel is something that sounds a lot harder than it is–probably the apprehension of ending up with a lumpy, pasty mess.   Every time I add the milk to the butter-flour paste, I do have a moment of trepidation:  but with a little faith, and just a little vigorous whisking, it all blends together and suddenly it thickens.  I have a theory that bechamel is a more economic substitute for cream, although wikipedia provides a more refined pedigree.  In any case, it’s plenty rich enough on its own.

Baked Butternut Ravioli (1 of 6)

To make bechamel extra special, you need only steep some aromatics in your warm milk before proceeding.  So into my sauce went a few sprigs of sage.  I stirred the finished bechamel into my agnolotti, garnished them with a bit of pancetta, and slid them into the oven.  The pancetta and the ruffled edges of the pasta crisped up under the oven’s heat, a little bit of crunch against the creamy smooth sauce and the pureed squash.

Baked Butternut Ravioli (5 of 6)

I certainly would seek this agnolotti out in Florence again if the opportunity presented itself, but this can tide me over in the interim.

Now for the giveaway, and then on to the recipes:  If you want to try this yourself, Buitoni has generously provided us with a gift package to give away.  It will include an apron, kitchen towel, and medium-sized cutting board, and three coupons to use.  To enter, simply leave a comment on this blog post before midnight EST on July 20, 2012.  The winner will be chosen at random.  For an extra chance to win, follow us on our Facebook page (and leave an additional comment telling us you have done so.  If you already follow us on facebook, leave an additional comment telling us–that counts too).  The winner will be chosen by a random number generator so be sure to leave a second comment about following us on facebook to get credit for your extra entry.  Good luck!  Note giveaway is only for US addresses only (as coupons are only redeemable in the US).

Full disclosure:  Buitoni kindly provided me with the agnolotti to try, but all opinions expressed here are my own.

Note on availability:   The Buitoni agnolotti are currently only available in the Northeast–more specifically, NY, NJ, MA, VT, MD, NH, RI, and PA, but you may be able to find a substitute where you live.

Sage and Brown Butter Sauce

  • 4T butter
  • 8-10 (2 sprigs) sage, leaves plucked off
  • zest of one lemon
  • 1 9-ounce package Buitoni butternut squash agnolotti (or other butternut squash filled pasta)
Set a large pot to a boil to make the pasta.  When it boils, cook it according to the package instructions (4-6 minutes).  Remove with a slotted spoon to a serving bowl.
When you add the pasta to the boiling water, it’s time to start your brown butter sauce.  Heat the butter in a small saucepan or small skillet over medium heat.  After the butter melts, add the sage leaves.  Continue to cook–the butter will bubble up as the water evaporates, then subside and will start to turn brown (you may even see little brown solids falling to the bottom of the pan).  When this happens, you’ll notice a nutty aroma.  Remove from the heat, and pour over the pasta (including the leaves).  Grate lemon zest on top, and serve immediately.

Baked Butternut Squash Agnolotti with Sage Bechamel

  • 1/2c milk
  • 1 sprig (5 leaves) sage
  • several gratings of fresh nutmeg (or a pinch of grated nutmeg)
  • 1T butter
  • 1 1/2t flour
  • pinch salt
  • 1 9-ounce package Buitoni butternut squash agnolotti (or other butternut squash filled pasta)
  • 2 thinly sliced pieces of pancetta, chopped

Bring the milk almost to a boil (until little bubbles start to form along the circumference where the milk touches the pan).  Add the sage and grated nutmeg, and allow to steep for at least half an hour but preferably longer.  Remove the sage when ready to proceed.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 and start the hot water for your pasta.  Cook the pasta according to the package specifications (about 8-9 minutes).  Drain and set in a medium bowl.

Make the bechamel.  Cook the butter and flour together for a few minutes over medium heat, stirring.  Whisk in the milk little by little, blending the paste into the milk to form a sauce.  Keep cooking, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens.   (This only will take a few more minutes).  Whisk in the salt.  Stir into the pasta and then turn half of it into your baking dish.  Sprinkle with half your chopped pancetta.  Add the remainder of the pasta, then sprinkle with the rest of the pancetta.

Bake at 400 for 20 minutes until the pancetta has crisped up and the edges of the pasta have taken on a nice brown crust.

Salvation Bolognese

A little while ago, we had our first dinner party in years–I’m not exactly sure how long ago the last one was, but I can absolutely fix the date as sometime squarely before the “pre-children” dividing line of my life.  I’ve told you about the pre-dinner drinks but not about the rest of the evening.   We had a great time — one of the spring menus from David Tanis’s A Platter of Figs, exactly as he devised it:  blanched asparagus in vinaigrette, roast lamb over flageolet beans, and babas au rhum for dessert.  And plenty of wine.

But there were some hiccups–to understate things a bit, and wouldn’t you know it, all to do with the main course.  I bought the lamb a week early, knowing that it was likely to sell out with Easter approaching.  The butcher cut me three 1 1/2 pound portions of lamb roast, and advised me that I should begin the thawing process no later than Friday evening, but to be safe Friday morning would be better.  Of course I went with the more cautious approach.

You can guess what happened.  The lamb was still an arctic brick late Saturday afternoon.  I tried to defrost in water–figuring (hoping!) that would work relatively quickly as the meat had already been thawing for 36 hours.  I then used the “turbo defrost” feature on the microwave.  Nothing.  In a fit of frustration, and already an hour into the evening, I chucked the meat in the oven, jabbed in the meat probe I bought for the occasion, slammed the oven door closed and prayed.  I was crushed to see that it was too cold for the probe to even pick up a reading.

My husband and I had a time-out in the kitchen.  He asked if we should just order pizza: “we have to feed these people!”  As the horror of calling Domino’s or the like settled on me, I remembered the bolognese sauce that I make in bulk and store in the freezer.  I pulled out a few two-portion containers, ran them under cold water to loosen the ice, dumped them in a saucepan, and we were off.

Salvation Bolognese Sauce (10 of 10)

Meanwhile, at some point in the process I shrieked in excitement from the kitchen–a number had appeared instead of the digitized “LoTemp” on my probe.  My joy was tempered slightly at the fact that the number was 32F but it was a milestone, and it continued to uptick nicely after that.

Suffice it to say, due to the difficulties of choreographing pots large enough to boil pasta and blanch asparagus, the bolognese with linguine ended up being ready at exactly the same time as the lamb came out of the oven.  So no one went away hungry, and my husband and I were eating lamb for a few days after that.

I stumbled into an important lesson–always have a plan B.  (I didn’t, but just got lucky).  And my bolognese sauce, that I’ve been making for ages now, was rechristened:  salvation bolognese.

Salvation Bolognese Sauce (9 of 10)

Salvation, for obvious reasons, but really it should have gotten that name long ago.  Those days when you are too beat to cook anything are often those days when you are in most dire need of something home-cooked and soul-nourishing.  Salvation.  Those weekends when an afternoon activity with kids runs far longer than you’ve planned.  Salvation.  And oh, when you throw a dinner party for your husband’s colleagues to whom he’s been talking up your kitchen prowess for weeks, and you don’t want to cater from Papa Gino’s.  Salvation!

I make a double recipe whenever I’m running low, and I’ve just started making it in my slow cooker, though I’ve been doing it for years just on the stovetop.  The reason the slow cooker is now my preferred method is that, much like making a soup stock, the slower and longer, the better, and I’m no longer tied to the stove for hours–not that the kitchen isn’t an inviting place to be during the process.

Salvation Bolognese Sauce (1 of 10)

Salvation Bolognese Sauce (3 of 10)

Salvation Bolognese Sauce (5 of 10)

Salvation Bolognese Sauce (8 of 10)

There are a million twists on basic bolognese, but there are some constants–a mix of ground meats is best (and easy to accomplish if you double or triple the recipe, as I always do) but you can use just one type if you like.  Milk or cream is either added early in the process or later on.  A base of onions, carrot, and celery chopped fine; a variety of spices, ranging from herby marjoram to aromatic nutmeg add complexity.  Mine is based on a Mark Bittman version, but I think as long as you follow the cardinal rule–cooking gently and slowly for as long as you possibly can–it will be delicious.  I love seeing how the meat slowly breaks down even as the sauce comes together into this flavorful, delicious sauce.  Check out how the sauce changes in texture from start to finish, and then I’ll give you the recipe.

Salvation Bolognese Sauce (6 of 10)

Salvation Bolognese Sauce (7 of 10)

Salvation Bolognese

  • 1/4c olive oil
  • 2 onions
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 2 carrots
  • 6 ounces pancetta
  • 1lb ground beef
  • 1lb ground pork
  • 2 cups white wine
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 28-ounce cans of whole tomatoes
  • 1/4 t nutmeg
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • cream or milk

Chop the onion, celery, and carrot very fine–I do this in the food processor since I’m making such a large batch.  (If doing this, pulse and check frequently so you don’t accidentally make a puree).  Heat the oil in a 5 quart skillet over medium and add the chopped vegetables.  (If you are planning to use a slow cooker, you can just use a deep skillet as I do in the photographs).  Sautee, stirring frequently, until the vegetables soften, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, chop the pancetta finely (again, I use the food processor for this), and when the vegetables are ready, stir in the chopped pancetta along with ground beef.  Continue to sautee until the meat has lost its red color and is cooked, around 5-10 minutes.

Add the wine, turn the heat to high, and cook until the the alcohol has evaporated (about 5 minutes).
If you are using a slow cooker, now is the time to transfer it over to your slow cooker.  If not, continue to use the same pot.
Add the nutmeg, stock and the canned tomatoes.  (Since you are using canned whole tomatoes, either chop them up or break them up in your hands as you add them; drain off the extra liquid in the can).
Turn the heat so the mixture simmers slowly, stirring occasionally.  If using a slow cooker, cook on HIGH for 6 hours or on LOW for 8.  If cooking on the stove top, cook for two hours but go longer if you can.
Before portioning for the freezer, I chill in the fridge (as I try to avoid putting heated food into plastic containers).  I generally portion into 1 1/2 cup portions which is very generous for about a pound of pasta.  You will note the layer of congealed fat on top.  That’s OK.
When reheating to serve, allow about 20 minutes.  Add a drizzle of cream or milk to the sauce and simmer gently for 20-30 minutes (you can skip this, but by the time you heat the water for pasta and cook it, you’ll be there anyway).   Toss the ragu with the pasta and serve with plenty of grated parmesan cheese, and garnish with chopped parsley.
As for the picture below–when else do you get an excuse to pour out two cups of wine in the morning?   This is wine from a Cape Cod vineyard (really!) that I got at our new winter farmer’s market.  And don’t worry–the owner of that little hand did not get any.  I, however, had some with my pasta later that night.
Salvation Bolognese Sauce (4 of 10)
For other takes on bolognese sauce in the slow cooker, check out the links here and here.