The best bolognese

Currently, I’m at my kitchen table, alternating between devouring a bowl of sauce with pasta and typing up this post.

But before I get to this sauce, which is the most delicious bolognese I’ve ever made at home, I want to tell you what else we’ve been cooking and how that bread turned out. It turned out really well, see?

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A nice thick, crisp crust, lots of air bubbles, showing off the rise created by less than a quarter teaspoon of yeast. The bread tastes buttery and wasn’t too dense or damp.  We ate it with olive oil, balsamic, salt and pepper. This is my favourite way to enjoy this kind of bread. In my opinion, sourdough doesn’t lend itself to carrying the flavour of olive oil as well. Too many competing interests.

Speaking of bread, my partner made pizza dough this weekend. You’ll have the recipe for that eventually. It’s also by Ken Forkish, and we never split this one in half. There is always room for more pizza. Plus, any leftover dough can be used for focaccia the next day. Last summer, we made a tomato passata and canned it. We’ve been cooking it down to use as pizza sauce whenever we need it. Yum.

Yesterday we fried up a basa filet in a beer batter. We loaded up the filets with guacamole, pickled red onions and pico de gallo. My kind of lunch. A few days before that I made Nanaimo bars, but if you can believe it, they weren’t really junk food. I wouldn’t eat them for breakfast, but they certainly weren’t too bad for a snack (recipe coming soon).

Back to today’s adventure: bolognese. This recipe is from Cook’s Illustrated magazine, and if you’d like to learn about the science behind cooking and baking, the folks who contribute are the people to go to. For example, the reason you’re mixing baking soda into the ground beef is that “the alkaline baking soda can raise the meat’s pH, helping it retain moisture (without affecting the sauce’s flavour).” (p 8, Cook’s Illustrated vol 144). It’s fun to read, and the recipes are foolproof.


The recipe:

Weeknight tagliatelle with bolognese sauce

Serves: 4 to 6

Ingredients

1 lb extra lean ground beef
2 tbsps water
1/4 tsp baking soda
salt and pepper
4 cups beef broth
6 oz pancetta, chopped coarse
1 onion, chopped coarse
1 carrot, peeled and chopped coarse
1 celery rib, chopped coarse
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 tbsps tomato paste
1 cup dry red wine
1 oz parmesan cheese, grated
plus extra for serving
1 lb tagliatelle

Method

  1. Toss beef with water, baking soda and 1/4 tsp of pepper in bowl until combined. Set aside.
  2. While beef sits, bring broth to a boil over high heat in a large pot. Cook until reduced to 2 cups. Set aside.
  3. Pulse pancetta in food processor until finely chopped. Add onion, carrot, and celery and pulse until the mixture has a paste like consistency.
  4. Heat butter and oil in a large dutch oven or pan over med-high heat. Add pancetta mixture and 1/4 tsp pepper and cook, stirring occasionally until the liquid has evaporated. Spread mixture in even layer in bottom of the pot and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, allowing it to stick and brown, about 7 to 12 minutes longer. Add the tomato paste and cook until this is rust colored and the bottom of the pot is dark brown, 1-2 minutes.
  5. Reduce heat to medium, add beef and cook, breaking up the meat into smaller bits, until the beef has lost its raw pink color. Stie in wine, scraping up any browned bits and bring to a simmer. Cook until the wine has evaporated and the sauce has thickened, about 5 minutes. Store in broth and parmesan. Return sauce to simmer, cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Rinse the pot that held the both, then fill it with water. Bring the water to a boil, add pasta, and cook until al dente. Add pasta to the pot with sauce and toss to combine. Serve with the extra parmesan.
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