About a month ago, the hubby and I had a date night at this cute little Italian restaurant in Riverwest called Centro Cafe. We spent our honeymoon in Italy, so we have a special place in our hearts for authentic Italian food and bottles of Chianti. I honestly can’t remember what Peter ordered, even after looking at their menu again, because I was so wrapped up in my own meal. I had the Penne Bolognese, and it was hands-down one of the best meals I’ve had in a really long time. Ever since then, I’ve been itching to recreate that amazing Bolognese in my own kitchen, and this recipe came pretty close!
Now if you’re like me, you’re thinking, why the hell would I go through the trouble of making my own sauce when I can just buy the store-bought stuff, add some hamburger meat to it, and call it a day? I hear you people. Really I do. That’s my go-to 99 times out of 100. But this Bolognese sauce, you guys…. It really is worth the extra effort. You’re just going to have to trust me on this one. And even though it looks like a lot of ingredients, it’s actually super simple to make.
Bolognese sauce originated in the Bologna region of Italy (duh) and is most often served with tagliatelle or other flat, broad pasta shapes, like fettuccini. However, I don’t often cook with tagliatelle or fettuccini and I had some rigatoni that needed to be used up, so I made a swap. Really, any kind of pasta is going to be fine with a sauce this good.
The main idea behind making a sauce like Bolognese is to add each ingredient directly to the hot pan so that the ingredients can come up to temperature quickly which helps the flavors to be released. So you’ll see in the instructions that each time an important ingredient is added, you should make a well in the middle of whatever ingredients are already in the pan. By making a well, I mean push all the ingredients currently in the pan to the sides, and add the new ingredient directly to the middle of the hot pan. Once the new ingredient has been properly heated, it can be combined with the rest of the ingredients.
Now, I’m sure I’ve mentioned my absolute disdain for chunks of cooked tomatoes in anything I eat… to the point where I actually blend store-bought spaghetti sauce before I’ll eat it. I know, I know. I’m a crazy person. This is the kind of crap Peter puts up with. But here’s the thing… this sauce is so good, I didn’t even care that there were chunks of unblended tomatoes in it. It’s thick without being so thick that it doesn’t mix with pasta, it’s got that wonderful tomatoey-beefy flavor that you want in a ragu, and just the slightest hint of red wine. But don’t take my word for it…. try it out yourself. I promise you, you won’t be disappointed.
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 3/4 cup carrot, finely shredded
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1 tbsp dried oregano
- 1 tbsp dried basil
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 3/4 cup red wine
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 (28 oz) can whole tomatoes
- 1/2 cup milk
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
- 5 cups dry rigatoni
- Parmesan cheese, shredded
- In a large saucepan or dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Once olive oil is hot, add onions and carrots and saute until soft, about 5 minutes.
- Make a well in the middle of the onions and carrots (push all the onions and carrots to the sides of the pan so that the middle of the pan is empty), and add the ground beef. Brown ground beef, breaking it apart as it cooks and combining it with the onions and carrots, until cooked through. Add oregano and basil and stir to combine. Do not drain off fat from the ground beef, even though you’re going to want to.
- Reduce heat to medium and make another well in the middle of the ground beef. Add the tomato paste, allow paste to heat, then stir to combine with the ground beef. Stir in minced garlic.
- Make another well, then add red wine. Stir together, making sure to scrape up any browned bits that have stuck to the bottom of the pan.
- Stir in Worcestershire, tomatoes, and milk. Add salt and pepper and reduce heat to simmer. Cover and simmer for at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- While sauce is simmering, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, add rigatoni and cook according to package instructions, until just al dente.
- Once you’re ready to serve, use a potato masher to break apart large chunks of tomatoes in the sauce. Adjust seasonings as needed. Pour sauce over pasta, and top with shredded parmesan.
Inspired by: The Pioneer Woman