The title may be an oxymoron considering Bolognese is an Italian word, named after an Italian city, but it sounds a great deal better than calling it “meat sauce”; don’t you think? This is a meal my grandmother used to make for her family and in turn, my mother makes it for our family. This dish has always been one of my favorites; how many times can I really say that though? I guess everything they have ever made is my favorite; this dish in particular, because it is so comforting and who doesn’t love pasta? Often, I find myself craving this meal because it is rare to come across any Bolognese that tastes like this recipe; it is always the same Italian version. Even in Greece it does not taste quite the same; that may be because they are trying to appeal to an American palate. It’s funny because in Greece, they add bacon to a lot of dishes in an attempt to make it more American; is that really what the rest of the world thinks of America? That’s a whole different post…
* I will do my best to put an accurate measurement for each ingredient, but I always just add a little here and there until it comes out just right.
1 pound ground beef or turkey
1 can tomato paste
1 cup red wine
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped (I use whatever kind of onion I happen to have that day)
1 carrot, chopped (optional)
1 celery stalk, chopped (optional)
1 bay leaf
1/2 tablespoon dried basil
1/2 tablespoon dried oregano
1 cinnamon stick or 1 handful ground cinnamon
Long pasta, in this case I used a Greek pasta (package pictured below)
This can be found at any Greek/Mediterranean market.
Heat a healthy amount of olive oil in a pot. Add the onions and garlic to the hot oil and cook them until they are soft and translucent. Add the chopped celery and carrot and cook until the carrots become very soft; season the mixture with salt and pepper. Make a hole in the center of the pot, pushing the vegetables to the side, and add the ground meat; season again with salt and pepper. Brown the meat until there are no more pink spots and drain most of the fat from the bottom of the pot. Return the pot to the heat and add the red wine and tomato paste. Stir the tomato paste until it has completely dissolved into the wine. Add the remaining ingredients except for the sugar. Bring the sauce up to a boil to allow everything to break down, stirring constantly. Bring the heat down to a simmer, cover the pot, and simmer for at least one hour. When the hour is up, taste the sauce to adjust the seasonings. Add the pinch of sugar and continue to simmer for at least another hour; ideally, I like to simmer Bolognese for no less than 3 hours. Do you ever wonder why a grandmother’s food tastes the best? It is because they never rush anything and you shouldn’t either! The pinch of sugar in this recipe is used to balance the acidity that comes from the tomato paste and wine. Sometimes I even use the cinnamon-sugar spice mix I have in my pantry; boom, two birds with one stone. I don’t use the cinnamon-sugar mix in place of the ground cinnamon, I just use it because it adds more cinnamon when adding the sugar. When the sauce is ready, serve over pasta. I like to use a Greek pasta that my mother has always used when she makes this. The pasta is a long, hollow pasta. The hole allows the sauce to soak in so that every time you take a bite you will experience little bits of sauce bursting into your mouth.
* You can top the dish with parmesan but I think feta works better to create a fluid flavor profile.
* If I use dried herbs in any recipe, I like to add fresh herbs at the end to brighten the flavors. Parsley works well here.
* Once you think you have added enough cinnamon, add just a little more. You really want it to stand out.
You may be thinking, cinnamon?!? There is a funny saying, “add lemon or cinnamon to anything to make it Greek” like adding sour cream to anything is supposed to make it Russian. This is obviously meant to be a joke, but in some sense there is a note of truth to it, as you do find either lemon or cinnamon in many Greek dishes. The cinnamon adds a level of complexity to the sauce; without it, this would be like any other Italian Bolognese. You will definitely be able to taste the difference the cinnamon makes; not so much that it changes the concept of the dish, but enough to awaken your taste buds.
Come back soon!
♥ ♥ ♥
xox, Xristina Marie
The Refined Palate
© 2011 Xristina Marie