Not Martha

Bolognese Sauce

bolognese sauce at about hour 2 of simmering

This is another in the series of foods I make in bulk and freeze. This recipe came from Oprah Magazine (I have lost track of which issue), and while there are a gazillion bolognese recipes out there this is the one that ended up in my routine. I have altered the instructions a bit. Note: It takes a few hours of simmering so make it on a day when you want to be hanging out at home.

Bolognese Sauce

  • 1 medium onion [for some reason I find the gnarly yellow onions sold at my nearby hippie market to make the best sauce]
  • 1 large or 2 small carrots
  • 2 to 3 stalks celery
  • 1 pound ground beef (not lean)
  • 1 ounce pancetta, very finely chopped [I freeze it a bit first, helps to keep it from sliding around as it's chopped]
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • Pinch allspice
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup dry white wine [I always end up with Hogue Fume Blanc, probably because it's the only one at the hippie market that clearly states "dry white wine" on the label]
  • 1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes with their juice [I usually use the fake San Marzano kind with the pretty label even though Cook's Illustrated proved they actually don't taste the best.]
  • 1 pound pasta, such as rigatoni [I like the oversized chiocciole made by Bionaturae]
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for grating

1. Finely chop onion, carrot and celery. [Right, I did that the first time, now I just run each through my food processor.] In a heavy-bottomed saucepan or Dutch oven over low heat, cook pancetta until all fat it rendered and pancetta is just beginning to brown. Add chopped vegetables, raise heat to medium, and cook, stirring frequently, until onion is translucent and soft.

2. [Don't forget to crack open some windows in the house, this is going to be simmering all day the smell, as good as it will be, will be strange when it's lingering in the tv room. Good job, why not crack open that wine and have a glass now that all the bits of cooking that involve sharp knives are done with?]

3. Add ground beef, breaking it up with a spoon, 1/4 tsp. (to start) salt, plus pepper and allspice. Cook until meat is brown. [Experience has proven to me that I don't need to obsessively break the meat into smaller and smaller pieces, though I do run a knife through it crosswise before it goes into the pot.]

4. Add milk. When it begins to simmer, reduce heat to low and cook at a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally until milk has mostly boiled away, about 30 minutes. [Experience has told me to add about 15 minutes to this and the next step. Am I not simmering the same way everybody else is?] Add white wine [you still have enough, right?] and cook as with milk, until it has mostly boiled away. Add tomatoes and juice, bring to a simmer. [I obsessively crush the tomato bits in the pot at this point, I bet it would be fine if you don't do that.] Cover pot, reduce heat to low, and allow sauce to cook very gently at barest simmer, 2 1/2 to 3 hours. [I swear there is a point where you check the sauce and suddenly it just tastes like everything came together, it's magical.] Season to taste with remaining salt.

5. Just before sauce is done, bring a pot of water to boil, salt it generously, and boil pasta according to package directions. Drain, mix with a third of sauce, then serve with remaining sauce on top with lots of grated Parmigiano cheese.

Makes 4 cups sauce. [Unless you double or triple the recipe. I cannot quite fit a tripled recipe into my 4 1/2 quart Dutch oven, clearly I need to buy a larger one.]

Chicciole pasta, look like freaked out little men wearing goggles

I allow the sauce to cool, then spoon into freezer bags, squeeze them flat, and freeze them on a cookie sheet until they are solid enough to be stacked on their own. When you are ready to eat you can pull one out of the freezer and run the bag under hot water to thaw. This is the easiest way to do it when you, like me, don’t own a microwave.

sauce flat in bags, ready to freeze

· comments [29] · 06-10-2009 · categories:recipes ·

29 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Laurie // Jun 10, 2009 at 8:28 am

    Oh wow, this looks good. I was just thinking this weekend that I wanted to learn to make bolognese. Yum!

  • 2 bunny // Jun 10, 2009 at 8:36 am

    gonna give this a try either this weekend or next! haven’t made a slow-simmer pasta sauce in years.

  • 3 Nana // Jun 10, 2009 at 8:57 am

    Am I the only one who thinks this would be a great recipe to try in the winter! The thought of cooking something all day as we move into summer…
    Of course, life is different in Seattle, I suppose. and the recipe does sound great.

  • 4 MsDerious // Jun 10, 2009 at 9:03 am

    I like the suggestions on how best to freeze it :) I often find I have too much to eat in one go, and only a small freezer. Stacking it makes so much sense… why didn’t I think of it!

  • 5 Clare // Jun 10, 2009 at 9:05 am

    So, inquiring minds, which canned tomato did they say tasted best?

  • 6 jen d. // Jun 10, 2009 at 9:26 am

    I always use the Marcella Hazan’s recipe that you suggested some time ago from the Seattle Times. I’ll have to give this one a shot!

  • 7 gabrielle // Jun 10, 2009 at 9:26 am

    if you’re short on time, try making this in a pressure cooker (if you have one, that is). it works really well and only needs to cook for about 40 minutes.

  • 8 megan // Jun 10, 2009 at 9:49 am

    Nana – Yes, it is more of a recipe to make in the winter, but as long as I’m posting my go-to recipes I thought I’d post it now.

    Clare – I’ll find it if I still have it. I remember they talked about the fact that imported cans of tomatoes were actually less preferred by tasters because the laws around canned tomatoes mean they have to cook them more than we’d like. (Completely forget why, it was a silly law.) So, American canned tomatoes retained more of a fresh flavor. Also, they did not prefer the Muir Glen tomatoes that I’ve heard mentioned as a favorite all over the place.

  • 9 laura // Jun 10, 2009 at 9:59 am

    I am loving your freezer food posts.

  • 10 Susan // Jun 10, 2009 at 10:10 am

    I have been wanting to make a bolognese for some time but all call for white wine. Megan, do you have a substitute you have used or heard of? I don’t drink alcohol so I wouldn’t buy any. Thanks.

  • 11 erica // Jun 10, 2009 at 12:39 pm

    Thanks for the recipe, and even more for the comments that sound so much like what’s running through my head whenever I’m playing in the kitchen. I’m loving the freezer recipes, too! Thanks.

  • 12 Michelle // Jun 10, 2009 at 1:25 pm

    I’m a huge fan of having bolognese in the freezer. Something about having an obviously slow-cooked sauce with seemingly no effort.

    I go with the Cooks Illustrated recipe, which uses a combination of ground beef, pork, and veal. When some friends had a baby last year I put a couple of bags of the sauce in their freezer; they still talk about how delicious it was! :)

  • 13 Lisa // Jun 10, 2009 at 3:03 pm

    The bags of frozen sauce in the freezer is a lifesaver! In the summer I make enough pasta sauce to last almost the entire year. I just throw all of the ingredients in chuncks in my crock pot (no meat) and cook on high for 4 hours. Then I just put it in the blender. I put mine in snack bags (1/2 cup) for single servings since it is just me! I also use the bag method for freezing homemade applesauce.

  • 14 tiny brosia // Jun 10, 2009 at 4:31 pm

    looks yummy. meat sauce with pasta has always been my favorite comfort food and grew up with it. nice idea with stacking and freezing it.it seems like every week i have a craving for it. thanks so much.

  • 15 dana mccauley // Jun 10, 2009 at 6:02 pm

    Love that your recipe has allspice! Nice touch. Also like your freezing strategy.

  • 16 Stella // Jun 11, 2009 at 9:31 am

    I’m wondering if you could just dump everything into a crock pot and let that simmer away for a few hours instead of babysitting it?

  • 17 pam // Jun 11, 2009 at 12:07 pm

    i really don’t like red sauce, but for some reason this recipe makes me crave it. weird.

  • 18 NoMartha // Jun 11, 2009 at 5:03 pm

    Try powdered cloves instead of the allspice…about a Tbs over the onions as they saute…
    Una vera italiana

  • 19 amy // Jun 11, 2009 at 5:40 pm

    Mmmm, I can’t wait to try this one. Looks delicious! Thanks for sharing your sidenotes too – I love that!

  • 20 Tanya // Jun 13, 2009 at 2:54 pm

    That looks delicious- I’m not sure I’d have the willpower to store it away…I’d want to eat it every day, breakfast, lunch, and dinner, until it’s gone!

  • 21 Lucitebox // Jun 16, 2009 at 2:40 pm

    I’m making it right now! (As I type.) I hope it is as good as I think it will be. Love your blog.

    More “go to” recipes, please. I tried the very best kale roasting method this past Spring and it brought the house down. (I’m pretty sure it was a link I found on your blog.)

  • 22 Tammy // Jun 17, 2009 at 2:33 pm

    Thanks for this recipe, bolognese is my favorite sauce to order when I go out… I never even thought of making it at home!

  • 23 Sara // Jun 18, 2009 at 11:56 am

    Sounds good- but why run under hot water to thaw? I think you should try banging the bag against a counter to break the sauce into pieces and then open the bag and throw the pieces in a pot to heat- waste less water and time (and probably sauce) since thawed sauce probably won’t be warm enough to eat.

  • 24 meredith // Jun 23, 2009 at 8:23 am

    hey megan~ i tried the recipe & it was delicious! although, maybe i simmered it too long because it was very thick… more like the consistency of chili. i even added a 32oz can of diced tomatoes (instead of 15oz). have you ever had this problem? maybe i should add more wine next time? thanks!

  • 25 megan // Jun 23, 2009 at 8:41 am

    Meredith – That is the way bolognese, is supposed to be. It’s thick, not a tomato sauce. Perhaps you are also simmering too vigorously?

  • 26 jamieofalltrade // Jun 24, 2009 at 9:21 pm

    I need to try this soon. A goal of mine is to learn to cook a red sauce that you’d think was made by and Italian grandma.

  • 27 Kiley // Jun 26, 2009 at 4:21 am

    Hi Megan, I tried the recipe today and loved it. I was really interested by the idea of simmering the sauce base in milk. One of my favorite Italian dishes is pork loin simmered in milk, so maybe that’s what drew me to this recipe. I am a “use what’s on hand” kind of cook, and I have loads of summer tomatoes and fresh basil now, so I used fresh peeled tomatoes instead of canned, and also red wine instead of white (that’s what was open). Magnificent! I think this is a perfect summer recipe, to save some of that fresh summer flavor.

  • 28 Brenda // Jul 16, 2009 at 3:57 pm

    Just made this sauce…it was fabu. I doubled the recipe and took the leftover wine, and extra can of tomato chunks and blended in the Cuisinart…just a little extra flavor…also, my sauce seemed thin (before I added the tomato/wine mixture)…does it need more simmer time? Tastes great though!

  • 29 Kim // Mar 18, 2010 at 12:04 pm

    This was out of Oprahs Feruary 2007 magazine that my mom gave me. It is one of the more ‘simple’ ways to make it.

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