As this is now my third version (Versions 1 and 2 are available HERE and HERE) of what might as well be a series on Bolognese, it should be clear that I love a good pasta sauce. I mean really whats not to love about a flavorful bolognese and pasta when you want an easy, low fuss dinner. As a result, I have made many varieties over the years to suite almost any situations.
This particular version was born out of a desire to use ingredients we had on hand from a variety of store runs before they went bad. So we had a bunch of ground meats, some stuffed pasta, lots of tomato products, and herbs. So naturally, we made bolognese.
For the meat, we selects ground pork and veal for a lighter, leaner option. Both have a relatively mild flavor, which allows other elements to shine through.
The major flavor elements were fennel, Marsala wine, calabrian chili, and thyme. Fennel just provides a great start for any pasta sauce; with more depth than onion, but still light. Similarly, the Calabrian chili provides a nice spicy kick but in a bright sweet kind of way. Just go easy on them, they may look small but three is perfect for two pounds of meat and a big can of sauce.
The Marsala brings a nice richness that brings out some of the underlying flavors of the tomato and herbs. In general, alcohol is great in a tomato sauce for this reason. Think vodka sauce for example. The vodka doesn’t provide any real flavor itself, but takes the tomato flavors and helps them shine.
There are a few different ways you can do an easy bolognese. First, use the jarred tomato sauce. This give a lot of built in flavor and usually allows you to eat a little faster since it should have as much water to cook off. The other is to let the sauce simmer for a solid half hour and throwing a lot of herbs and spices in to really let it infuse.
Both are perfectly good ways to make a sauce, and on a normal busy weeknight I will almost always go for the jar. This time around, I had the time so why not put it to use. We let the sauce go for a nice long time and really thicken up.
This was somewhat driven by the choice in pasta as well. We had some Trader Joe’s stuffed pasta. I love those because they make a wide variety of really solid flavor combos. One of the big considerations for a bolognese though is that they cook super fast. So if you are going to need to start the sauce in advance, might as well give yourself the extra 30 minutes and really let it reduce.
The other consideration is that stuffed pastas often seem to bring some water with them onto the plate/bowl. Based on the fact that the sauce tends to be served over the pasta instead of mixed, this can create a bit of a unique problem. If your sauce isn’t reduced, you end up with a watery soup at the bottom of your bowl. Its not super appealing and can make some of the pasta a little soggy.
So long story short, if you have the time take it. Its pretty low input once you get it going. So, set it on for a while and let it do its thing.
Summery Bolognese 3.0
- 1 Pack Trader Joe’s Stuffed Pasta
- 1 Lb Ground Pork
- 1 Lb Ground Veal
- 20 Oz Canned Tomato Puree
- 1 Fennel Bulb finely diced
- 3 Garlic Cloves finely diced
- 3 Calabrian Chilis finely chopped
- 3 Sprigs Thyme Leaves
- 1 Tsp Fennel Seed
- 1 Tsp Oregano
- 1/2 Tsp Red Pepper Flake
- 1/2 Cup Marsala
- Salt & Pepper to taste
- Cook the pasta per package instructions, it cooks really fast so its best to wait until the sauce is pretty much done.
- Heat about 1 Tbs of olive oil in a skillet/saute pan over medium heat.
- Add the fennel, cook for about 3-4 minutes.
- Add the meat, cook for about 7-8 minutes and mostly cooked through.
- Add the garlic, herbs/spices, and calabrian chili, cook for an additional minute.
- Pour in the Marsala, allow to reduce for 2-3 minutes.
- Add the tomato puree.
- Bring to a simmer and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 20-30 minutes.