|Spaghetti alla Bolognese|
Like my previous dish, I originally profiled this classic sauce in a prior website but I wanted to again for a number of reasons. When I published it the first time, it got overshadowed because it was the first time I made pasta from scratch. Secondly, I ran into this version which largely uses the same ingredients but slightly altered technique so I wanted to determine of these differences affected flavor.
Adapted from page 154 of the recipe guide of Top Chef University DVD set.
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 ounces pancetta or bacon, diced medium
1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1 large onion, chopped finely
2 ribs celery, chopped finely
2 medium carrots, chopped finely
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
1 cup dry red wine
2 bay leaves
3-4 leaves fresh basil, torn plus more for garnish
1 cup fluid from canned tomatoes or whole milk
Freshly ground black pepper
1 pound dried spaghetti
Freshly grated parmesan cheese, for garnish
1. Prepare the protein: In a Dutch oven or a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Once hot, place the pancetta into the pan and cook to render the fat but not crisp, approximately 3 to 4 minutes. Raise the heat to medium high and add the ground beef to the pancetta and stir to combine, breaking up the large pieces of meat. Season with salt and pepper and cook until the beef is well browned and no longer pink, approximately 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the meat from the pan using a slotted spoon, leaving the fat in the pan and reserve.
2. Flavor the sauce: Add the mirepoix ingredients to the pan of rendered fat and sweat. Stir in the garlic and cook until the onions are translucent, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook for a minute or two so the flavor concentrates. Deglaze with red wine and reduce so the alcohol evaporates. Add the torn basil leaves and bay leaves and cook for another ten minutes to blend the flavors. Add the tomatoes and reserved meat, stirring to combine. Season with salt and pepper, cover, reduce heat and simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Add tomato fluid if the level gets too low.
3. Cook the pasta and finish the dish: During the last 30 minutes the sauce simmers, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the spaghetti and boil for a minute or two less than the box instructions dictate. Reserve 1 cup pasta water and drain. Then add to the sauce and continue to cook to blend the flavors. Plate onto warmed bowls and garnish with chiffonade basil and parmesan cheese.
The recipe I profiled can be found on Saveur Magazine's website. I live this version better because it doesn't simmer as long (however you certainly could do so longer) and it utilizes the pancetta fat more constructively.