I went through a dark phase where the smell of meat made me ill. It was a combination of buying spoiled meat from Whole Foods (and not recognizing it until I got home and it stunk up my entire apartment) and a bout of food poisoning. My disgust was so real that I couldn’t even store meat in my freezer. I’ve seen the documentaries and have witnessed the creative labeling tricks employed in supermarkets, and while we’re no longer living in Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, getting good, affordable meat is challenging. Even in crunchy, hippy-dippy Los Angeles.
I’m weird about meat. When I was a teenager, I was a vegetarian for a hot second. It started with the Save the Elephants crusade in 8th grade, which dovetailed into a PETA phase that scarred me from eating veal. I still can’t eat veal. Not even now, decades later. While I’ve become adventurous with most foods, my meat consumption is fairly limited to beef, chicken, turkey, and some pork. I’ve had some gruesome lamb experiences and let’s not even talk about the DUCK SITUATION OF 1999.
I also eat meat well-done. Yes, I realize I’m the Antichrist for having admitted this. While I don’t shirk from blood and gore in cinema and real life, I can’t have it on my plate. Trust me, the irony has not escaped me. And yes, I know that meat is better when it’s cooked medium. I get the culinary point-of-view, I really do.
Perhaps this is why I love this recipe so much because it demands that ground beef is cooked well, and it’s a recipe that has served me in entertaining. I’ve made bolognese dozens of times and it’s always been a crowd pleaser. I’ve futzed with it over the years and I’ve come to a version which has become my mainstay. Enjoy, cook, share, and let me know what you think. xo
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 lb ground sirloin (85/15)
1/2 lb ground sausage (I prefer sweet Italian, out of the casing)
1/4 cup minced pancetta
2 large shallots, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 carrots, rough, minced
3 ribs of celery hearts, minced
1/2 cup tomato paste
1 28-ounce can San Marzano crushed tomatoes
1 15-ounce can organic tomato sauce
2 cups red wine (I’d go with a full-bodied version like a cabernet or even a Rioja)
6 sprigs fresh oregano, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1-2 tbsp of sugar, to taste (adjust based on the acidity of your tomatoes)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon unsalted butter (you can opt to use vegan butter)
1 1/2 lb gluten-free linguine
In a large pot (I used my Le Creuset dutch oven), heat olive oil. Make sure you have enough to thinly coat the pan, and that your pan is searing hot. There’s nothing more criminal than boiling meat, so use a large pot and ensure that it’s scorching hot. Once you have the heat of Hades, toss in your meats (beef, sausage, pancetta), flavor with salt and pepper and stir gently with a wooden spoon to break apart the meat.
While your meat is browning (5-7 minutes), blitz your mirepoix — onion, carrots, celery — and garlic in a food processor. Pulse until finely chopped. It’s important that all of your veggies are roughly the same size because no one wants a huge chunk of carrot or onion in their pasta bowl. NO ONE.
After your meat has browned on all sides, add the tomato paste and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Deglaze the pan with the wine and add your veggie mix. Cook for 5-6 minutes. Add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, sugar, and red pepper flakes, and oregano. Bring all the ingredients to a simmer and taste. Add salt and pepper as needed.
Simmer covered for about 4 hours. The longer, the better, and I tend to stir the sauce every hour. When the sauce is done, bring a large pot of water to boil. Add a hefty pinch of salt to the water then add your pasta. Stir and cook until al dente. Add the pasta to the sauce; be sure to save some pasta water in case you need some. If the sauce is too thick, add the water to reach your desired consistency.
Remove from heat. Add the butter. Drizzle each serving with some extra olive oil. DIG IN.