When I'm looking for a helping hand this is my go-to dish. Ina makes a Weeknight Bolognese with a jar of crushed tomatoes and a few herbs and seasonings. While I'm sure her version is perfectly delicious, and easy, I use a jarred tomato sauce my family loves. This is a dish you can have on the table in the time it takes the pasta to cook. Even better, this dish is one of our all-time favorites so it's a win-win all around.
I make this dish with whatever I have on hand. More often than not I will use either ground pork or Italian sausage for my bolognese. If I don't have that I'll go with ground beef or even ground lamb. I also think this dish is perfectly good without the meat (even though it's not technically a bolognese then). If it's summertime and the herbs are fresh I throw those in. If not, I use an Italian seasoning blend that I love. We always spice ours up with plenty of red pepper flakes and I'll admit that I probably use a little more than the 1/4 cup of heavy cream Ina calls for in her recipe. I think the whole point is to make it your own.
For example, I rarely have red wine on hand since I prefer white, so I will usually sub a veggie, chicken, or beef broth in its place. Sometimes I add cheese to the sauce and sometimes we just serve it on top. Sometimes we don't even use Parmesan and opt for those cute little baby bocconcini (baby mozzarella balls). If so, I like to toss them into each bowl right before serving so they don't melt away in the hot pan.
I do feel like pasta choice is important here. While you could use any pasta in a pinch, this is best with small shapes like shells, or orecchiette, where the bits of meat and sauce can get inside of the pasta for the ultimate bite.
This quick bolognese is the perfect dish for my family this Christmas Eve. It's something we all know and love and it helps get me out of the kitchen faster so I can drink hot chocolate and watch Christmas movies with the family.
A Very Merry Christmas to all!
Adapted from How Easy Is That?
by Ina Garten
2 tablespoons good olive oil, plus extra to cook the pasta
1 pound lean ground sirloin
4 teaspoons minced garlic (4 cloves)
1/2 an onion, minced*
1 tablespoon dried oregano*
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
1-1/4 cups dry red wine, divided*
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes*
2 tablespoons tomato paste*
salt and pepper, to taste
1 pound dried pasta, small shells or orecchiette
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves, lightly packed*
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg*
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
*Notes: You can speed things up by using your favorite jarred sauce and using an Italian seasoning blend in place of the herbs and seasonings listed above. I do this on busy weeknights and also in the winter when fresh herbs aren't readily available. If you don't have the wine on hand, feel free to sub a good quality broth in its place.
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large (12-inch) skillet over medium-high heat. Add the ground sirloin and cook, crumbling the meat with a wooden spoon, for 5 to 7 minutes, until the meat has lost its pink color and has started to brown. Stir in the garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes and cook for 1 more minute. Pour 1 cup of the wine into the skillet and stir to scrape up any browned bits. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, salt, and pepper stir until combined. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil, add a tablespoon of salt, a splash of oil, and the pasta, and cook according to the directions on the box.
While the pasta cook, finish the sauce. Add the nutmeg, basil, cream, and the remaining 1/4 cup wine to the sauce and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until thickened. When the pasta is cooked, drain and pour into a large serving bowl. Add the sauce and 1/2 cup Parmesan and toss well. Serve hot with Parmesan on the side.