Spring is here and Austin is blanketed with wild flowers of all hues and colors. I love this time of the year, when the weather is just warm enough to be outdoors, a nice breeze blows, and you can spread out that picnic blanket for a day in the sun. This is what I call ‘Happy Weather’. It just always puts you in a good mood. This is also the season when all my favourite produce starts lining up the supermarket shelves. Fresh green stalks of asparagus, all sorts of juicy berries, fresh ripe red tomatoes, and lots more green stuff that I absolutely love.
A side of sautéed or grilled spring veggies is the perfect accompaniment to any meal. Which brings me to my favorite for this week; Pasta Bolognese. It’s a hearty, simple pasta sauce and every household has its own version. I use lean beef or lamb mince for the same, but if you are really counting calories then turkey mince is your best bet. The recipe would stay the same, only the cooking times would change. I usually make a chunk of bolognese sauce, and then use it later for stuffing peppers or aubergines etc. Being the vegetable junkie that I am, I also end up adding zucchini and carrots to the mix, as I like seeing some color in the meat and tomato mix!
It’s a one pan versatile dish. If you don’t want to eat pasta, then serve this with crusty bread, polenta slices or quinoa. Though I would highly recommend this with some Casarecce (twisty tubular shaped) or Spaghetti. The chunky sauce clings to the pasta and seeps into the twisty shapes and coats it deliciously. A good Bolognese takes a little close to two hours to cook well and for all the flavors to shine through. Also, using good quality ground meat is essential. I usually get the Angus Grass Fed Beef Mince from the Supermarket. The ingredient list for this pasta sauce is not a long one, and it essentially requires onions, canned tomatoes, tomato paste, celery, red wine and carrots. This recipe is my version of the Bolognese, adapted from various sources, with my own added twist to it.
- 1 pound (500gms) good quality ground beef
- 1 brown onion diced
- 2-3 bacon rashers finely chopped
- 1 cup chopped celery
- 1 carrot finely diced
- 2-3cloves of garlic minced
- 1/2cup dry red wine
- 1 can peeled tomatoes
- 2tbsp tomato paste
- 1 bay leaf
- 2tbsp olive oil
- 1tsp crushed red pepper
- 1 -2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1tsp Italian herbs
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Salt to taste
- Grated fresh parmesan cheese
- Fresh parsley chopped to garnish
- 2pound Casarecce pasta or Spaghetti
- Heat the olive oil in a large heavy bottomed saucepan. Add the bacon and onions to the pan and sauté until soft and onions begin to turn a little golden. Add the chopped celery, carrots and bay leaf to the onions and salute further until it softens. Add garlic and stir for a few more minutes.
- Add the ground beef to the vegetable mix and sauté until the meat turns brown and the pink goes away. Add the wine and cook stirring until it is almost evaporated.
- Add the canned tomatoes and the tomato paste to the meat mix. Add the thyme, crushed red pepper, Italian herbs, pepper and salt to the sauce. Cook the sauce over medium high heat until it starts bubbling. Reduce the heat to low, and cover the pan. Cook it on low heat for another 45-60mins. Adjust seasonings according to taste.
- In a large pot of boiling salted water cook the pasta, until al dente. Drain well, return to the pot and toss with the sauce.
- Serve the pasta in deep bowls, Garnish with parmesan and chopped parsley and serve.