A hearty bolognese sauce...


Like the rustic fresh basil tomato sauce, there's nothing easier to make, better to smell as it cooks, and more delicious to eat than a hearty fresh bolognese sauce.  I love this sauce as a stand alone served on a bed of freshly-made potato gnocchi pasta accompanied by a salad served with a creamy Greek spice dressing.  Other fresh pastas work, too, but there's just that "little something extra" that potato gnocchi brings to the dish.  And, then, the bolognese sauce also provdes the "base" for lasagna or, better yet, baked ziti!



This is a "time intensive" (that is, day long) recipe.  The work is minimal but time is needed because a hearty bolognese sauce is the product of slow cooking.  I normally start the sauce after breakfast.  Like the rustic fresh basil tomato sauce, I simmer it on low for eight hours.  During the first four hours, I keep the pot covered and stir only occasionally (for example, when I fetch a cup of coffee made with Sun Burst coffee beans from Costa Rica).  The next four hours, I leave the top slightly ajar and stir every half hour or so...remember: this is cooking not rocket science.  Slow simmering allows the sauce to cook down, for the flavors to intensify, and for the mixture to develop the thickness that is characteristic of a rich bolognese sauce.

I've searched all over the place for great bolognese recipes and have found lots of interesting ideas and good flavors.  But none quite "hit the spot" like Mrs. Pizzo's bolognese which she serves every Sunday afternoon.  So, I've been experimenting over the years to produce something similar to Mrs. Pizzo's that I like.

For this recipe, I started by browning some Italian sausage and, as it got nice and brown, I added chopped pancetta which adds "something just a little different."  I then added chopped onions and garlic.  I also had two containers of baby portabella (crimini) mushrooms in the refrigerator, so I sliced them, washed them, and threw them into the pot.



Once everything was well-acclimated, I added red wine, cooked it down a bit.


It was then time to chopped tomatoes.  On this particular day, I used a wine case full of freshly picked end-of-season Jersey (grown in Pennsylvania, but they're called "Joiseys" anyway) tomatoes, a gift of a colleague's father who didn't want the tomatoes to rot.  Chop the tomatoes in the food processor (use "off/on" not a steady "on").



That formed the base for the bolognese.  All that was needed is some appropriate spicing.  So, I added: salt, fresh ground pepper, some red pepper flakes, fennel seeds (crushed with a pestle and mortar), oregano, three bay leaves, and basil.  I used dried spices for this recipe.

Cover on the pot and turn the heat down.  Let nature take its course for four hours, stirring occasionally.



After four hours, remove the lid.  Using a good-sized spoon, remove any fat and scum that has simmered up to the surface.


Then, turn the heat up a bit so the sauce will simmer and add some tomato paste.  Once again, let nature take its course for four more hours, stirring with some regularity, cleaning down the sides of the pot and scraping its bottom just to ensure that nothing is sticking.  Again, don't worry about "timing."  Just make sure to stir more frequently.  This assists the water to dissipate and for the sauce to thicken and become rich and hearty.

It's easy to tell when the bolognese sauce is finished cooking.


Turn the heat off after eight hours.  Stir and let the sauce cool naturally, stirring every once and a while to cool.  When the sauce reaches room temperature, use a soup ladle to fill containers with sauce.  I use 8 and 16 ounce Ziploc plastic bags because they hold 2 and 4 portions of sauce.  I arrange the plastic bags to fit into in a container.  Freeze the sauce and use when you want to serve it or use as a base for lasagna or baked ziti.  (Freezing the sauce in this way, you can stack other things on top because the sauce provides a relatively flat and stable base.)



This hearty bolognese sauce has a great, deep, and rich flavor.  Remember to save some prep time by using a food processor to chop the onions, garlic, and tomatoes.



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