Hard to imagine a dish more worthy of Sunday Supper than a bowl of tagliatelle served with a hearty Bolognese Sauce, warm Italian bread and a bottle of red. I grew up in a non-Italian household with the quick “Americanized” version of this sauce (browned ground beef and a jar of marinara) and not ashamed to admit I still make that version for the family when I’m pressed for time. Simply referred to as “spaghetti,” it may not be the real deal but we all enjoy it.
This year, I have decided to go back to my Sunday Supper roots and resurrect some of the classic recipes, made from scratch with no shortcuts. I’ve made Marcella Hazan’s Bolognese Sauce many times, but wanted to give my new slow cooker (see Equipment Notes after the recipe) a try, so made some adaptations and came up with a sauce that will comfort one and all.
Start with the holy trinity of flavor bases: onion/carrots/celery. First chopped then finely minced (note the personalized Dinner Is Served cutting board!)
Add a few pinches of classic Italian herbs:
And let us just pause for a moment to admire this freshly opened bottle of Savory Spice Shop’s California Basil:
And some best quality tomato products:
Along with a little vino (red instead of the traditional white wine), and balsamic vinegar. Then just let your slow cooker do all the work! A last minute addition of creamy mascarpone cheese or cream cheese provides that extra dose of richness.
I have to say, this sauce is MADE FOR the slow cooker. The meat is incredibly tender and the sauce develops such a unique complexity. I will still approve of the “quickie” version for a busy weeknight but weekends are made for slow, old-school kind of cooking.
Until next time…be well, eat well, love lots!
Slow Cooker Bolognese Sauce
- 1 TBS olive oil
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 1/2 pound mild bulk Italian sausage
- 1/2 cup EACH chopped onion, celery, carrots
- 1 TBS chopped garlic
- 1 can whole tomatoes (28 oz), preferable imported Italian San Marzano
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/4 dry red wine
- 1/4 cup low sodium beef broth
- 1/4 cup tomato paste
- 2 TBS balsamic vinegar
- 1 tsp Kosher salt
- 1 tsp dried basil
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp fennel seed
- 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1/2 cup mascarpone or cream cheese
Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add beef and sausage and cook until no longer pink. Drain through a sieve and place on a paper lined plate; set aside.
Mince the onion, carrot, celery and garlic in a food processor and transfer to a 4-6 quart slow cooker. Pour the whole tomatoes along with their juices into the food processor and pulse a few times until chopped. Add to the slow cooker. Add all the additional ingredients except for the mascarpone cheese. Stir. Cover and cook on low for 4 hours. Just before serving, stir in mascarpone or cream cheese. Serve over pasta and garnish with shaved Parmesan cheese or slivered fresh basil.
On Christmas Day, I was heating some cocktail meatballs and sausage in my slow cooker when my old faithful totally died. Bummer! I looked up my order history on Amazon and turns out the model was six years old. Eh…not a super great lifespan, in my opinion.
I decided to go with another brand, Cuisinart, as a replacement and found this ultra cool model on Amazon.com. It not only slow cooks, it has a heating element to brown food and a steamer insert (perfect for steaming artichokes, corn, etc.). I love the lighter weight interior and non stick surface. So far I am totally in love with it and fingers crossed it will make it past 6 years!