Bolognese is a meat-based tomato sauce that originated near Bologna, Italy, hence the name of this wildly popular dish. Typically made with a combination of ground beef, pork and veal, it’s a chunky sauce that really sticks to the pasta and makes for a hearty meal, especially on a cold winter night. My version, which I serve tossed with gluten free pasta and freshly grated parmesan cheese, takes only about 30 minutes to cook (unless you have more time, in which case, let it simmer for up to an hour on the stove, covered, with the heat very low). The longer it simmers, the more the flavors develop and the better it tastes!
A few notes on my recipe:
I had ground sirloin from beef tenderloin trimmings in the freezer, so that’s what I used here. However, any combination of ground beef, pork and/or veal will work.
About the carrots… my kids like carrots raw. But, they are not big fans of cooked carrots. With that said, I opted to grate my carrot using a cheese grater so the pieces would be short and thin and practically melt into the sauce. The carrot gives the sauce a natural sweetness that you need; it works nicely to complement the intense flavor of the meat. So if your kids are picky like mine, take a few minutes to grate the carrot and they won’t know the difference!
About the tomato sauce… we jar our own fresh tomato sauce every summer, but feel free to use any marinara of your choice. You can also use the canned tomato sauce of your choice, which allows you to season it however you prefer. If your family prefers a chunky tomato sauce, use canned chopped tomatoes or a chunky marinara.
About the gluten free pasta… I used my favorite brand, Bionaturae, which is easily found in most grocery and health food stores. It’s a combination of rice and potato, which makes for a pasta that is just as close to the real thing as possible! It doesn’t fall apart like a lot of gluten free pastas on the market, and it’s not gummy. It also reheats well if you have leftovers. I highly recommend it!
Finally, this sauce freezes well, so make a big pot of it and freeze half for another time! I like to pick up inexpensive plastic soup containers at the store and use them to ladle soups and sauces in to be popped in the freezer. When you’re ready to use it, defrost it in the fridge and then pour into a wide, shallow pot or dutch oven, cover and reheat over a low flame. Toss with your favorite pasta and that’s it, dinner is served!
- About 2 1/2 pounds of ground sirloin
- 1 medium shallot, minced
- 1 large carrot, shredded using a cheese grater
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 Tsp. olive oil
- 1 jar of tomato sauce, about 25 ounces worth
- 1 Tbsp. tomato paste
- Crushed red pepper flakes
- Salt, black pepper to taste
- Pasta of your choice
- Freshly grated parmesan cheese
- Step 1 In a wide, shallow Dutch oven, heat the olive oil.
- Step 2 Add the shallots, carrots and garlic. Season with a pinch of salt and red pepper. Add the tomato paste and stir it into the garlic, carrots and shallot.
- Step 3 When the vegetables begin to soften, add the ground sirloin, crumbling it with your hands to break it apart.
- Step 4 Sautee the meat over a relatively high flame so it browns, breaking it up with a wooden spoon or flat wooden spatula. If you keep the flame too low, the meat with boil instead of sautéed, and you don’t want that. The meat has to brown to develop its flavor.
- Step 5 When the meat is browned, remove any excess oil with a spoon and discard.
- Step 6 Add there jar of tomato sauce, thinning with water as needed. You want enough sauce to cover the meat completely.
- Step 7 Season well with salt, pepper and a bit more red pepper, if desired. You can also add fresh basil if you like.
- Step 8 Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce heat too low. Simmer gently over a low flame for about 30 minutes or until the sauce thickens slightly and any water evaporates.
- Step 9 In the meantime, make your pasta. Cook until al dente. Using a handheld strainer, add the pasta in batches to the pot of bolognese. If you’re not using all of the bolognese, place some of the bolognese in a large bowl and add the pasta in batches, tossing in between to coat the pasta. Add some of the pasta water as needed. Serve with fresh grated cheese!