September 18, 2009

Pasta Bolognese

Sometimes you feel like greens and beans, and sometimes you feel like spaghetti with meaty Bolognese sauce. Or, at least I do. These days, it's 100% grass-fed beef going into the sauce. Way healthier than grain (corn) fed beef - both for the cows and for us. Pastured meat has a much higher content of omega-3 fatty acids and also of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a naturally occurring family of fatty acids that have antiinflammatory and anticarcinogenic properties. The sauce is even better the next day, after all the flavors have had a chance to mingle and meld overnight in the fridge.

Grass-Fed Beef Bolognese
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil 
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup) 
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced 1 carrot, chopped (about 1/2 cup) 
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped (about 1/2 cup) 
  • 1 pound ground grass-fed beef (I used 85% lean) 
  • 1 cup hearty red wine (eg, Cabernet) 
  • 1 tsp dried oregano 
  • 1 tsp dried basil 
  • 1 tsp dried thyme 
  • 1 bay leaf 
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes 
  • 1 25-ounce can whole plum tomatoes (preferably San Marzano) 
  • sea salt 
  • black pepper 
  •  1 pound spaghetti, boiled in plenty of salted water until al dente 
  • For garnish (optional): chopped fresh parsley, freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano
Heat olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed, nonreactive sauce pan or pot (eg, enameled cast iron or stainless steel). Add onion and a pinch of salt, and saute for 5-8 minutes until softened. Add garlic, carrot, and celery to pot, and cook over medium-low heat for 5-10 minutes until vegetables are beginning to brown.

Add ground beef, pinches of salt and pepper, and saute until nicely browned. If there is too much fat in the pot, pour off some of it (in our case the meat was quite lean so this wasn't necessary).

Add wine and herbs. Simmer until wine has reduced to about 1/4 cup, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes with their liquid and red pepper flakes. Break apart tomatoes with a spoon. Simmer sauce for 30-60 minutes, covered. If the sauce is looking a little thinner than you'd like it, leave the lid off for the final 10 to 15 minutes of cooking to allow excess liquid to evaporate. 

Season with salt and pepper to taste. Toss a couple of ladlefuls of sauce with the cooked pasta, then top each serving with additional sauce, chopped parsley, and/or grated parmigiano.

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