OK, who doesn’t have a soft spot in their hearts for spagetti bolognese? It was one of my favorite things to eat growing up and usually consisted of canned spagetti sauce, some ground beef and frozen (amazing!), greasy garlic bread. It was delicious. My roomate in college raved about her Mom’s famous spagetti. It was a big deal when I finally got to try it for myself during a weekend trip home with her. And now, guess what? I get to rave about my very own spagetti recipe. After years of trying to find a good canned sauce for bolognese and lasagne, I’ve learned to just use canned tomatoes, building flavors and seasoning myself to find the perfect salty/spicy/sweet/herby balance. This sauce also has red wine in it, which gives it tons of body and depth. It’s best when you take your time, but it can be made in a pinch and do the trick.
This sauce is so good that I don’t even need garlic bread with it, although having it to sop up what’s left in the bottom of the bowl is a really good idea. I usually make enough for at least three or four meals, and I can eat it for days on end without getting sick of it. Add a little crème fraîche and shredded cheese to the mix and this is basically my favorite meal. And because there are a few vegetables in there, and wine, it doesn’t feel like just eating a quick pasta dish on a weeknight (which for us, when we’re really in a pinch or just feeling especially lazy, usually consists of lardons, shallots, cream and cheese). It feels luxurious and comforting at the same time.
Bolognese sauce with red wine
1 pound ground beef
2 tablespoons olive oil
4-6 cloves of garlic
1 large onion or several small shallots, diced
3-4 carrots, shredded or finely diced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried herbs (herbes de Provence, for example)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons paprika
Salt and Pepper
2 cups red wine
1/2 cup beef stock (optional)
2 large cans of tomatoes
Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large, deep pan or dutch oven. Add the onions and carrots and cook for about five minutes, until soft and translucent. Season with salt and pepper. Add the garlic and cook 1-2 minute more before upping the heat to high. Add your spices, tomato paste and herbs and let them cook for a minute or two to help release their flavor, then add the ground beef. Adjust seasoning, then cook over high heat until the beef is browned and fragrant, about 10 minutes.
You can now deglaze the pan with the red wine. Add it in all at once, keeping the pan over high heat and let it cook down for at least five minutes before adding the stock, if using, and the canned tomatoes. This is where you can add more flavor to the dish: I tend to let the red wine cook down for as long as I can before moving to the next step, sometimes up to 25 or 30 minutes. The flavors become more concentrated, but this isn’t a “must.”
Let the sauce simmer for 5-10 minutes, or until your sauce is nice and thick. If you don’t have time to simmer and reduce, simply remove about 1/4 cup of the liquid, whisk in a tablespoon of cornstarch and add it back to the pan. Simmer a few minutes longer and serve hot (I like to top mine with a dollop of crème fraîche)!