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.
- 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.]
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.