Monday, April 4, 2016

slow-cooker bolognese sauce

I'm a meat sauce of kind of girl. I always have been.

I have beautiful memories of gathering with my family and extended family over the course of 30 plus years at our favorite Italian restaurant for special occasions and our annual family Christmas party. I always ordered "Spaghetti with Meat Sauce, extra meat sauce please!" 

There's something hearty and luxurious about a really good meat sauce. 

I was so excited when I saw this recipe for slow cooker bolognese sauce in last months issue of Southern Living. 

Of all meat sauces - bolognese is tops!  And I'm sure that my talented friend Marisa would agree, too!

A few weeks after coming across this slow cooker recipe, Marisa shared a heart-warming family story, along with her family recipe for bolognese sauce. It, too, sounds and looks delicious! I can't wait to try HER recipe, and see if I can adapt it to a slow cooker. 

I might not know a whole lot about Italian cuisine, but here's a little about what I know about bolognese sauce . . . 

Genuine bolognese is a slooowwwly cooked sauce.

Its base includes a characteristic soffritto of onion, celery and carrot . . . and different types of minced or finely chopped beef. Red wine and a small amount of tomato concentrate and tomatoes are even added; and the dish is then gently simmered at length to produce a thick, delicious sauce.

It's often served with a hearty pasta like pappardelle or tagiatelle; some prefer rigatoni or penne.

For me, I think it's delicious all by it's lonesome, enjoyed with warm slices of fresh garlic bread.

Bolognese is the kind of sauce that takes time to prepare . . .  and hours to simmer; and although it's somewhat time-consuming - the end result is worth all the effort and time involved in making it.

I recruited my little Sous Chefs to help chop vegetables and crush tomatoes (you can see my little guy's hands in the photo below). We had a lot of fun that afternoon. I love that I have extra special, loving memories of my first time making bolognese sauce.

~ after hours and hours in the slow cooker ~

We enjoyed this beautiful sauce over pappardelle, with fresh basil and freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for our Sunday Family Dinner.

I can still hear my oldest son's comment at dinner . . ."Mom, this sauce is amazing." 

I love the magic that happens when family and food come together!

slow-cooker bolognese sauce
.     .     .     .     .    .

1 medium-size yellow onion, finely chopped
2 celery ribs, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 pounds lean ground beef
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup red wine
2 (28-oz.) cans whole peeled tomatoes
2/3 cup heavy cream
1 pound pappardelle pasta 
Freshly shaved or grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
fresh basil, torn

Sauté first 3 ingredients in hot oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat 8 minutes or until tender. Add garlic and tomato paste; cook, stirring constantly, 30 seconds. Transfer to a 6-qt. slow cooker.

Add beef to skillet, and cook, stirring often, 7 minutes or until crumbled and no longer pink; drain. Stir in kosher salt and next 5 ingredients. Stir in wine, and cook, stirring occasionally, 7 minutes or until almost all liquid evaporates. Add to slow cooker, and stir to combine.

Drain tomatoes, reserving liquid. Using your hands, crush tomatoes, and break them apart. Add to slow cooker, and stir to combine.

Cover and cook on LOW 6+ hours. Stir in cream. Check sauce; it should be thick and creamy. (If soupy, uncover and cook 30 more minutes. If dry, stir in reserved canned tomato liquid, 1 Tbsp. at a time, to thin sauce.) Discard bay leaf.

Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain well. Toss together pasta and 4 cups sauce. (Reserve remaining sauce for another use.) Spoon into serving dishes, and sprinkle with desired amount of cheese and fresh basil. Serve.

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  1. Your sauce looks amazing and how wonderful that you make it in the slow cooker!! I love your pappardelle pasta -- I can almost taste the chewy pasta with your wonderful meat sauce. Yummy!! You are so sweet for mentioning me and the bolognese recipe -- Thank you!! And I'm with you when it comes to meat sauce -- long and slow to develop the flavors and make the meat tender. I wish we lived closer -- we certainly could get into a lot of mischief (errr cooking) together. Hope you're having a wonderful spring. Sending love and hugs!! Marisa

  2. I am going to make your recipe this week. I'm sure that the leftovers can be frozen. Right? It sounds wonderful and without a doubt, my family will love it. Thanks. :)

  3. Suzanne- this looks amazing! So comforting and hearty! My husband always orders extra meat sauce too ;) Have a great weekend.

  4. I made this bolognese recipe for a Saturday dinner and it was off the charts delicious. There is great depth of flavor. I followed the recipe exactly. Wonderful.
    Thank you!

  5. Have tried many recipes All super!!Can t wait til the next ones,my company and I thank you

  6. I have made it today...everyone in my family loved it...will surely share it with my friends..hope they will like it too..


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