Thursday, February 17, 2011

Bison Bolognese: Better than the sauce you think it is

Bolognese is not a meat sauce in the way you might think. It's not a tomato sauce with meat added, nor is it saucy. There's a bit of tomato used, really just for color and flavor. It's broth that is used to cook the meat. Bolognese cooks for a long time, allowing everything to reduce and intensify.

Because of the long cooking time it's critical that you use a very heavy pot to cook it in. An enameled cast iron saucepan (Le Creuset) is your best bet. Plan for at least 3 hours for it to simmer. I started prepping for the sauce at 1:30 pm yesterday. By 2pm the simmering had begun, and we had a hearty meal (with our new favorite salad) at 6:30. I did turn it off and covered it between 5 and 6pm since I was out of the house.

I based the recipe on one from the wonderful Angeli Caffe Pizza, Pasta, Panini cookbook, just reducing fats and mushrooms. Angeli Caffe's Bolognese recipe is an inspired variation of Marcella Hazan's. I used bison instead of beef since we love it. The finished sauce won't change a bit if you substitute beef.

Bison Bolognese
Print recipe only here

1/2-ounce dried porcini mushrooms
1 T olive oil
1 onion, very finely chopped
1 stalk celery, very finely chopped
1 carrot, very finely chopped
1 clove garlic, very finely chopped
1 pound ground beef or bison
1/4 pound sweet Italian sausage
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup red wine
1/4 cup chopped parsley
2-3 sage leaves
1 bay leaf
3 cups chicken or beef broth
14.5-ounce can Muir Glen Fire Roasted Crushed Tomatoes

1 pound fettucini or pasta of your choosing
1 T olive oil
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Set porcinis in a small bowl and cover with warm water. Prep all veggies. They need to be totally minced so they will just melt into the sauce. Chop and chop some more.

Set a 3-quart Dutch oven or heavyweight saucepan over a medium high flame and add olive oil. When warm, add carrots, onion and celery and sauté until the veggies are a bit soft and the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and sauté another minute or two until the garlic is fragrant.

Add ground beef and sausage. Sprinkle with a generous pinch of kosher salt to draw out the moisture from the meat. Break up the meat with a wooden spoon, stir well and cook until the meat is cooked through

Turn the heat up and add the wine. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until the alcohol is cooked off. Add the parsley, sage and bay leaf. Add the crushed tomatoes and broth. Stir well. Bring to a simmer.

Remove porcinis from their soaking liquid, reserving liquid, and chop coarsely. Add to sauce.

Turn down to lowest flame possible and simmer, uncovered, for a minimum of 3 hours*, stirring from time to time. If the sauce dries out add 1/2 cup of water or porcini liquid whenever necessary. At the end, however, no liquid should remain. Taste and add salt as needed.

At dinnertime, cook and drain the pasta and toss with tablespoon of olive oil. Add the Bolognese and Parmesan and mix well. Serve immediately.

* If you cannot maintain a sufficiently low or gentle simmer, pop the sauce into a preheated 250 oven.

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