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nap-time bolognese: feed your inner starving artist

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By Jen White · November 3, 2011 · 0 Comments ·

Rainy, gray November days beg for something warm and fortifying, and this is certainly both.  You might not be ready to run a marathon afterward, but you'll be ready for a marathon sleep.  Cheers to that!

Sauce Bolognese is perfect on fettucine, penne, or ladled over gnocchi, with lots of fresh Parmigiano Reggiano (that's the real stuff) grated over the top.  One of its traditional uses is as the sauce component of lasagna, as in Lasagna Bolognese--but you could also turn it into a baked ziti, or a soup, or even a very cheeky chili. It's also highly adaptable, so feel free to add veggies or substitute other meats (or non-meats) as you wish.  In other words, you have permission to get artsy with your food.  Just another perk of living in the best restaurant city in the universe: a great tip from a neighbor about using veal, which was spot-on.

Our version is all about the rich, gravy-like texture of long-simmered beef--not very tomatoey at all, but still complex and acidic from the red wine.   Tomato paste adds the mahogany quality of tomato that still deserves a place in the pot, and warm, sweet spices (cinnamon and nutmeg) lend a welcome mystery to the finished sauce.  This recipe will feed two for dinner, with enough left to make a lasagna the next day; or you could freeze some of the leftovers for later in the season, when you're frozen too.

nap-time bolognese

  • 1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 pound ground veal
  • 1 pound stew beef (preferably chuck), cut in 1" cubes
  • 1 1/2 cups dry red wine, such as Zinfandel or Cabernet
  • 1 cup veal or beef stock
  • 1 6-oz. can tomato paste
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • dash cayenne pepper
  • salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half or milk
  • 1 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar (optional)
  • hot cooked pasta or gnocchi for serving
  • grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, or the best you can afford


  1. Heat oil and butter over medium-high heat in a large skillet.  Add onion, carrots, celery, and garlic, and saute until very soft and fragrant, about 12 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer vegetables to a 6- to 8-quart pot that the sauce will be cooked in.
  2. In batches (one pound per batch), lightly brown the ground beef, the ground veal, and the stew beef in the residual oil and butter in the skillet over medium heat for about 5 minutes per batch.  The ground meats don't need to be completely cooked before you pull them from the heat.  Transfer each batch to the sauce pot as it's finished.
  3. To the pot, add wine, stock, and tomato paste, stirring well.  Bring pot to a slow simmer over medium heat.  While it comes to the simmer, add the bay leaves, herbs, spices, red pepper flakes, and a little salt and pepper to taste (you can add more to taste later, after adding the half-and-half).
  4. Simmer gently over medium-low to low heat for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally.  The sauce will get a bit more liquid as the stew beef cooks down, so don't feel like it needs to be very wet at the beginning.  If it truly does seem dry near the end, or just too beefy or lumpy, add a little more stock to make it your preferred consistency.
  5. Add the half-and-half, stir, and taste and adjust the seasonings. I added more salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and balsamic.  It rocked.


makes enough for about 8 starving artists

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