an easy and delicious bolognese.

It's hard to take appetizing pictures of spaghetti sometimes.

This is my favorite time of year to cook. I understand the importance of seasonal produce and there's nothing I love more than an heirloom tomato during the height of summer, but for me, it's all about the comfort foods: stews, pasta bakes, root vegetables...there's really nothing better, and living in New England gives ample opportunities to cook all things comforting in the cooler months.

99% of the time I dine at an Italian restaurant, I order bolognese. It's the ultimate comfort food, and I'm always on the lookout for the next recipe to make at home. While Ina Garten's Weeknight Bolognese has been a staple, I wanted to find a similarly simple dish with a slightly different flavor profile (but I also ultimately wanted to avoid traditional recipes that include veal--personal preference).

My sister recently gave me The Pretty Dish, by Jessica Merchant of How Sweet Eats and the first thing I made was her bolognese (simply titled "Our Favorite" in her cookbook). It was really, really, good--I loved the addition of mushrooms, and the only thing I might change for future renditions is adding a mirepoix at the very beginning. And warning: this makes a TON--I ate this for a week and still have two containers in my freezer just waiting to be defrosted.

Our Favorite (Bolognese) from The Pretty Dish

What you need:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 sweet onion, diced [I would also add a 1/2 cup of diced celery and a 1/2 cup of diced carrots]
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • Pinch plus 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 12 ounces cremini mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 pound of ground beef
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 2 cans (14 ounces each) fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup tomato paste [I used a 1/4 cup and it was fine]
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

What you do:
  • In a large pot, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the onion and garlic with a pinch of salt (add celery and carrots if you're into those, too). Cook for 5 minutes or until slightly softened. Add the mushrooms and stir. Cook 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally or until the mushrooms soften. Increase the heat to medium and add the pork and beef, pushing the veggies to the sides and breaking the meat apart with a wooden spoon. Stir in the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt, pepper, basil, oregano and red pepper flakes. Cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, and breaking the meat into small pieces or until it's browned.
  • Add the sugar, half and half, wine, diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes tomato paste and Parmesan. Stir well, and bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for 20 minutes. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper if needed.
  • Serve over the pasta of your choice! I did regular spaghetti, but any hearty pasta would do.
  • And add additional Parmesan, because, of course. 

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