Saturday, July 30, 2011

As Seen On Tv: Bolognese

I think everyone has watched The Food Network at some point (some watch more than others, some watch everyday, not naming names).  Mr P and I were deciding what to make as our major weeknight dinner for the week, and one of our faves, Ina Garten (i.e. Barefoot Contessa) was making 'Weeknight Bolognese,' one of our favorite pasta sauces.  Though we didn't end up using her recipe, it did inspire us to make some the long way by just 'throwing it in the pot,' meaning the crockpot, or slow-cooker!  

I always thought that a crockpot was one of those things you register for when you get married and become more 'domestic,' however I've had one since college, because it's the easiest way to make something that usually requires long baking or long simmering on the stove, but you don't have to keep such a close eye on it!  If you set it on a low temperature, you can start cooking your meal in the morning, and have it ready by the time you get home from work or from school.  You can make soups, casseroles, pot roast, stews, curries, lots of simple but delicious dishes.

The bolognese we made was simple, quick to throw together, we started cooking it before we went to bed on Sunday, and it was ready for lunches in the morning!  If you are not familiar with it, it's basically a red pasta sauce with base ingredients of ground beef and tomato paste, instead of crushed tomatoes like marinara sauce.  I didn't follow all what it took to make it, I just know it was really good, but Mr P sent me the recipe in his own words in an email during the week:


2-1/2lbs ground beef
16oz of red wine
6oz tomato paste
2 tsp. salt
1 tbls black pepper
2 bay leaves
3 tomatoes chopped large
3 garlic cloves sliced in half

Pasta water

Sear ground beef.  Drain fat.  Place in crockpot with other ingredients and stir.  Add water to just fill over the beef.  Low for 6-8 hours, (top of beef might looked burnt) see if more water needs to be added (most likely will) to almost cover beef.  Taste to see if more salt will be needed (should taste a little on the salty side) Stir and wait for another 6-8 hours.  Add a little more water to help the Bolognese become saucy, not too much water though. 

Boil then salt the water and cook noodles to al dente reserving some of the pasta liquid (follow directions on box for dry pasta but reduce cooking time by 1-2 minutes).  Combine a few tbls of sauce with al dente noodles of your choice and mix with a spoonful of pasta liquid.  Place in bowl, add another ladle of Bolognese over the noodles and finish with grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano.  

Boom!, it doesn't go 'boom' when you're done... YOU say 'Boom!' (hands go up air like making an explosion) when you serve this delicacy to your guests as if it's magic.... or at least that's what I get sometimes when Mr P knows he just nailed a difficult dish, and that's what I imagine he was trying to portray when "Boom!" is part of his recipe :P

A few side notes from me:

- Buy your hard cheeses (parmesan, pecorino romano, etc) in block (not grated or shredded), keep them in the freezer, and don't be scared of the sticker price, it will last... for ever ...  Then just grate it as you need it, it's easy to grate when it's frozen, so you can just take it out, grate some, put it back.  Our pecorino romano has lasted for many many months because we keep it in the freezer.

- If you think you added too much water, don't sweat it, just let it cook a little longer and it will get thicker again.

- If you don't have a crockpot and you are thinking about getting one, get the BIG size... it will come in handy because you can always cook smaller portions the big pot, but you can't cook big portions in the small pot.  You should make big portions anyways, because you can probably freeze whatever you're making if you don't think you can eat it all.

Enjoy!  We certainly did :D


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