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Where we live, school is upon us. That’s right, even though it’s still unbearably hot and the calendar still says it’s summer, the school year is here. What once was a lazy summer evening is now filled with homework, soccer practice, ballet lessons and gymnastics. A fast weeknight meal that everyone will love is a must and Bolognese is just a fancy (Italian) way of saying meat sauce. Everyone loves meat sauce!

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This Bolognese is fast and delicious! The most important part of any Bolognese is browning everything. The vegetables, the meat, the tomato paste. All of it must be browned. I did it in about 20-25 minutes on pretty high heat, but you have to watch it! There is a fine line between browned and burned. Browned is good. Burned, not so much. There also needs to be some wine involved. Good wine, but not necessarily expensive. You should always cook with wine you would drink. If it’s not good enough to drink, you don’t need it.

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Penne Bolognese

  • 1/2 cup good quality olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 2 carrots, peeled
  • 3 celery stalks, trimmed
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 1/2 lbs. ground beef (see notes)
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 6oz can tomato paste
  • 1 cup red wine (see notes)
  • 1 28oz can whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes in juice, crushed by hand
  • 1 Tble fresh basil
  • 2 springs fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 lb. penne rigate or ziti pasta
  • grated parmesan for topping

Combine garlic, carrots, celery and onion in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until mixture becomes almost a paste, scraping down the sides as necessary. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat until very hot. Add vegetables and cook, stirring often until vegetables are very browned, about 7-10 minutes. Add ground beef, stirring and breaking beef up with the spoon. Cook until beef is browned, another 7-10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and stir. Add tomato paste, adjust heat if necessary. Cook another 3-5 minutes until tomato sauce has browned slightly. Add wine and cook until liquid has reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Add tomatoes, basil, thyme, and bay leaf. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce is thick, about 6 minutes more.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add penne and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup pasta water. Toss pasta with sauce and reserved water. Serve with grated Parmesan.

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Notes:

  • I used all ground beef because that’s what I had. Feel free to use whatever combination of meat(s) you’d like. If I would have had a half-pound of pork, I would have used it. Beef, pork, sausage or turkey would all be lovely in the sauce. However, if you use turkey I would add something with a little fat and more flavor, such as an Italian sausage with it.
  • Even if you are not a wine drinker or a non-drinker please use the wine. If you’re worried about buying a bottle of wine only to use a cup I have the solution! Pour any leftover wine into an ice-cube tray and freeze overnight. Remove the frozen cubes from the tray and place in ziploc bags and place back in the freezer. The next time you need wine for a recipe just take a few cubes out, place them in a bowl or measuring cup and let them thaw at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  • This is my second favorite Bolognese recipe. My absolute favorite recipe is Anne Burrell’s Bolognese! This recipe takes ALL DAY and uses an entire bottle of wine! But it is so good! Really, really, really good. It also makes a lot! Sometimes I make it on the weekend and freeze 2/3 of it for later. It’s worth the time and effort!
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