Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Cooking 101: How to Make a Quick Meat Sauce (Bolognese)

I gave a cooking lesson last night and one of the dishes we made was a quick Bolognese sauce. It's really just a tomato sauce with ground beef and would make traditionalists quiver, but—when great ingredients are used—it can be sublime.

My version consists of five ingredients: one pound of grass-fed ground beef, a 24-ounce jar of Bionaturae organic strained tomatoes (see photo), one chopped onion (medium, large . . . it doesn't matter), unrefined sea salt and fresh ground pepper. If I am feeling crazy, I'll also add parsley, basil or oregano. You like garlic? Add garlic!

Here's how I make it:

Heat a tablespoon or two of fat (olive oil, butter, rendered beef fat, etc.) in a sauté pan. When fat is hot (but not smoking), add grass-fed ground beef. Using a spoon or spatula or stick, break apart meat and cook it until it is about 75 percent done. Remove the meat to a bowl, leaving some of the cooking juices/fat in the pan. Add the chopped onions and intermittently stir them; you want the onions to turn soft and translucent, not brown. (Use the down time during this step to make your meal's vegetable.)

When the onions are soft, add the meat back to the pan. Add some unrefined sea salt and fresh ground pepper (more than you think), plus any dried herbs you are using, and stir to combine. Add the tomatoes (trust me, the Bionaturae strained tomatoes are extraordinary and worth the extra money; other brands' chopped, diced and whole also work, but the sauce's final consistency won't be as luxurious) and stir.

Bring the mixture (it will be a little liquidy) to a boil and return it to a simmer. Let it simmer (uncovered) for about 15 minutes, making sure to stir occasionally and to scrape off anything that has stuck to the side of the pan. Turn off the heat; the sauce will have visibly thickened. Let it sit (still uncovered) for an additional 15 minutes, stirring occasionally; it will thicken even more. If you are using fresh herbs, add them after you turn off the heat. There will be enough residual heat to cook parsley, basil, oregano, etc.

After letting the sauce sit, taste it and reseason accordingly. You'll probably need more salt and pepper.

This sauce will stay in the refrigerator for almost a week and its flavor will improve during that time. Feel free to freeze it as well. 

One more tip: if you have other vegetables (i.e. mushrooms, carrots, zucchini, peppers) that you want to use, cook them at the same time as you cook the onions.

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