Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Big Batch Bolognese Sauce for Spaghetti...

Who doesn't love spaghetti? When I make my go-to bolognese meat sauce, I always make a big batch to freeze the extras in containers for another night or two of spaghetti sauce on a whim. It's a great way to sneak in tons of veggies for those picky eaters as the long slow-simmering softens and blends everything together making it super tender and yummy to eat. On the Canadian family day long weekend, we were at our friend's cottage in Port Perry. With a few families staying over, we each contributed to the meals, and I took care of lunch when we all arrived at noon. What can be heartier than a plate of hot spaghetti bolognese and a side of fresh creamy homemade Caesar salad after a near two hour winter drive on one of the coldest days this year? I had everything prepared, and just heated the pot of sauce I toted, warmed up the cooked pasta and assembled the salad at the table. It gave us the energy and warmth to brave the cold with outdoor activities afterwards.

People are often surprised when I tell them it takes me two hours to cook the sauce- and that is just when it hits the stove top; it also takes another twenty minutes to prep the ingredients. But long slow-cooking is how you get a tender meaty sauce characteristic of a proper bolognese ragu you get at a fine Italian restaurant. And I add milk to further tenderize the meat mixture. The prep doesn't take long at all, it's the wait and occasional stir to redistribute the liquids so not to burn on the bottom is all. Trust me, when you taste the results, you can never go back to dump and stir ready-made spaghetti sauce! 

Big Batch Bolognese Sauce
Makes 12 cups of sauce for a crowd or with leftovers to freeze

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1-1/2 onions, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
3 stalks celery, peeled and chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
2-1/2 lbs. lean ground beef
salt and ground black pepper
1 package (225 g) mushrooms, chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine or cooking wine
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 Tbsp. beef liquid concentrate
2 zucchinis, grated and well squeezed to remove water
1-1/2 cups 2%+ milk
2 cans (796 mL) crushed tomatoes
fresh grated Parmesan cheese, fresh basil or chopped parsley to serve
cooked spaghettti or pasta such as fettucine, linguine or tagliatelle

NOTE: This sauce is great for cooking up any leftover vegetables you have in the fridge. I find broccoli stalks particularly perfect in this, which are hard and often thrown out after the florets are used- peel tough outer skin, chop up and add. Excellent sources of C, K and folate!

TIP: See right: Freezing tomato paste flat in a ziplock freezer bag allows you to break the sized chunk you need
without thawing it all. Just pop the remainder back in the freezer for next time.

I like to take the ground meat out of its package, and put it in a bowl to break it down with a spatula or wooden spoon before cooking. This softens the meat and reduces the need to break the clumps when its cooking in the pan. I find it easier and mess-free to do it beforehand when its raw. I add a little water to help soften as I dig into it.
Heat oil on medium-high heat in large skillet, add onions and 1/2 garlic; cook until translucent stirring frequently. Add celery and carrots, stirring frequently, until soft and lightly brown, about 15 minutes. Stir in the meat with the vegetables until almost cooked. Add the remaining garlic and mushrooms. Continue to cook until meat is cooked through. Add salt and pepper.

Add wine; cook until evaporated. Add tomato paste with two Tbsp. water; stir well to combine. Then add beef liquid concentrate, and stir to combine.

Stir in the zucchini. Then add the milk, stirring well. Let cook for ten minutes, then add the crushed tomatoes, stirring thoroughly. Reduce the heat to low and simmer the sauce, stirring occasionally until the sauce is very thick about 1-1/2 hours (two hours from start of cooking).

Long slow-simmering condenses all the flavours yielding a deep flavourful soft meat sauce that seems to melt in your mouth!

Hearty bolognese sauce smothered on spaghetti and Caesar salad with homemade dressing, with toppings of crispy bacon, croutons and Parmesan.

Here with my close beautiful friend Marilyn at her Port Perry cottage...
Photo Credit: Marilyn Wang

Enjoying good eats and good times...
Photo Credit: Marilyn Wang

Braving the cold air and frozen lake with the family... the scene from my friend's cottage backyard.

Stay warm!!

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