These are the days when I think a lot about comforts….and comfort foods. Which brings me to the question: just what is a comfort food?
If each of you were to give me an answer, I would probably get over 400 answers, so that means everyone has their own definition of what comfort food is to them. For me, comfort foods take me back to my younger days, when Mom was doing the cooking. There were so many dishes she made that I loved, so anything that reminds me of one of those meals is a comfort to me. Comfort foods are tied up with memories….the family eating together around a big table with lots of talk and laughter going on, and enjoying favorite foods.
One of my most favorite memories is the meat sauce that Mom always made from scratch, and served over pasta with lots of grated cheese over the top. I’m guessing that pasta in some form is considered a comfort food by many people all over the world. Therefore a recipe for a good meat sauce (Bolognese Sauce) should be in every cook’s repertoire. It’s so versatile, it can be served over anything; rice, bread, potatoes, polenta, and pasta, of course. It goes with any pasta shape.
So welcome to my kitchen today while I prepare my best Bolognese Sauce for you. This is not a sauce that needs to cook slowly on the back burner for hours. What helps to speed up the blending of flavors is cooking it in a Dutch oven. The Dutch oven, even with the lid on, allows the sauce to reduce a little, thus concentrating the flavors. This method of cooking it also lets the layers of flavor come through, as the bacon, ground meat and veggies all get browned in the same pot, which is then deglazed with the cooking liquid.
For anyone who might want to cook it in a slow cooker….I have done it that way, and find that the sauce is a little more liquid than I like it, so I would recommend using a little less broth, or omit the wine. The end result will still be very good, but my first choice is the Dutch oven.
Also, since making this is so easy, I like to make double the amount, and freeze half of it, so it’s ready for a quick meal anytime…
BEEFY BOLOGNESE SAUCE
Yield: Makes about 4 cups, or enough for 1 pound of pasta
- 3 slices center cut bacon, chopped
- 8 oz. 90% lean ground beef
- 4 oz. ground, lean pork, or sausage, casings removed
- 1 1/2 cups finely chopped onion
- 1/2 cup finely chopped carrot
- 1/3 cup finely chopped celery
- 1 Tbsp. minced garlic
- 1/4 cup unsalted tomato paste
- 1/2 cup unsalted chicken broth
- 1/3 cup red or white wine
- 1 ( 14.5-oz) can unsalted diced tomatoes, undrained
- 1/2 tsp. black pepper
- 1/4 tsp. salt
1. Place bacon in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat; sauté 5 minutes or until beacon begins to crisp. Add beef and pork to pan; cook 6 minutes or until partly browned, stirring to crumble. Remove mixture from pan.
2. Add onion, carrot, celery, and garlic; sauté 4 minutes.
Add tomato paste; saute 1 minute until it starts to darken.
Add chicken broth and wine; bring to a boil. Cook 1 minute, scraping up browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Return beef mixture to pan.
3. Stir in tomatoes, salt and pepper. Cover; reduce heat to low, and cook about 1 hour, stirring several times to prevent sticking. Taste before serving and add more salt, if needed.
Serve over your choice of pasta. In the photos here, I used penne pasta. Grate some fresh parmesan or Romano cheese over each serving and garnish with fresh chopped parsley. DEEElish!