We are three sisters united in our search for the divine - in food, libation, literature, art, and nature. This blog will capture the true, sometimes decadent, at times humorous, and every so often transcendent adventures of the Salvation Sisters.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Best Ever Bolognese Sauce

by Linda

  Really good Pasta Bolognese is one of my favorite meals. The sauce does require long hours of cooking to reduce all of the veggies, meat and tomato sauce into a thick and delicious ragù, so I make it when I am going to be home all day. The sauce freezes really well which is the good news. Make the big batch and freeze the leftovers. It is great for entertaining, because your guests will be able to taste that you spent all day making that sauce… they just won’t know which day. I love to serve it on Christmas Eve, because after having worked long hours on one of the busiest days of the year in grocery retail, all that is required to complete a memorable feast is the addition of an antipasto platter, green salad and some garlic bread.
   I adapted this recipe from Anne Burrell who provides one of the few reasons that I ever watch the Food Network anymore. Her cookbook is great.
   I am planning my annual trek to Greenville this month to see my son Jordan. This dish travels well, so I will be taking it along as part of the homemade dishes that I will make in advance to fill up his freezer. I know that all of you who are mothers understand my compulsion to know that my unmarried (take note single ladies!) son has some dishes to enjoy after I am gone that are made with love from Mom.

olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
2 carrots, chopped
3 ribs of celery, chopped
5 large cloves of garlic, peeled
sea salt and freshly cracked ground pepper
2 pounds lean ground beef
3 6-oz cans of Muir Glen or 365 tomato paste
3 cups drinkable red wine - if you don't want to drink the wine, don't cook with it
3 bay leaves - fresh or dried
1 fresh thyme bundle

about 1/2 to 1 cup whole milk, if desired
1 pound spaghetti or your favorite gluten-free pasta
Parmigiano-Reggiano for finishing

1. In a food processor, fitted with a metal blade, drop the cloves of garlic through the feed tube to mince. Stop the motor, add the onion, carrots, and celery and purée into a coarse paste. In a large stock pot over medium heat, coat pan with olive oil. Add the puréed veggies to the warm oil and season generously with sea salt. Cook until all the water has evaporated, stirring frequently, and the purée becomes soft and is cooked down with most of the moisture gone, about 15 to 20 minutes. Don't rush this stage, it takes time to properly cook the vegetables and to develop flavor. 

2. Add the ground beef and season again generously with salt. Brown the beef. Don't rush this step. Cook another 20 to 25 minutes. Michelle's Note: If I am making a double recipe, I begin browning the meat in a separate skillet to save time. When I am finished cooking the meat, I deglaze the pan with enough red wine to pick-up all the browned bits. I add this wine to the stock pot with the cooked veggies.

3. Add the tomato paste and stir to combine thoroughly cook until brown about  5 minutes. Add the red wine. Cook until the wine has reduced by half, 5 to 10 minutes.
4. Add milk (if using) and filtered water to the pan until the water is about 1 inch above the meat. Toss in the bay leaves and the bundle of thyme and stir to combine everything. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Over the course of the next several hours, as the water evaporates, you will need to add more water, about 2 to 3 cups at a time. Don't worry about adding water during the cooking process, you can always cook it out, so if you think it needs more water, add more water. This is a game of reducing and adding more water to develop the characteristic deep flavors of Bolognese Sauce. Adding all the water at the beginning would result in a boiled meat sauce rather than developing a rich, thick meaty sauce over time. You will likely need to add more salt. Add some now, and check again towards the end of cooking. Simmer for 3-1/2 to 4 hours.

5. During the last 30 minutes of cooking, bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat to cook the pasta. Make a habit of always salting your pasta water once it reaches a boil; about 1 to 2 tablespoons will do. The water should be as salty as the ocean. Don't skip this step. Ever. When the water is at a rolling boil add the sea salt (Michelle uses Diamond Kosher Salt), and then pasta, stir frequently. Cook for 1 minute less than it calls for on the package. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water.
6. While the pasta is cooking remove half of the sauce from the pot and reserve.

7. Drain the pasta and add to the pot with the remaining sauce. Stir or toss the pasta to coat with the sauce. Add some of the reserved sauce, if needed, to make it about an even ratio between pasta and sauce. Add the reserved pasta cooking water and cook the pasta and sauce together over a medium heat until the water has reduced. Turn off the heat and give a big sprinkle of Parmigiano and a generous drizzle of the high quality finishing olive oil. Toss or stir vigorously. Divide the pasta and sauce into serving bowls or one big pasta bowl. Top with remaining grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and pass more at the table. Serve immediately.
8. Alternatively, for a baked pasta dish to serve a crowd, cook penne or ziti, as described in step 7. I tend to only cook one pound of pasta at a time, but it is probably okay to boil two pounds if you have a large pot and adequate water.


  1. Lovely recipe (I love Italian food). I'll try it soon.
    Question: how to you find those recipes? From friends originating from those various countries? travels? Do you fist test the recipes with peoples of those countries?Thanks
    PS: Continue your great blog. I am fan

  2. Hello and thank you for posting questions and letting us know you are a fan. In a broader sense, to help answer your questions, as you can probably gleen from reading the blog, my sisters and I are food enthusiasts. As such we are always making tried and true recipes while also searching for new recipes to try. This search includes reading blogs, magazines, cookbooks, travel essays and personal memoirs. My personal food interests tend to wander. For example, for last six months or so I've been very interested in Moroccan food and have been trying new recipes, but I'm not quite ready to post on the subject yet (outside of preserved lemons). Every single recipe on this blog is tested and typically made several times before posting so we can be sure to get the details right and to keep high quality standards. Certainly travel spikes our interests, not only for places we have been, but also for places we yearn to visit. We three sisters have written about our various travels and have recipes associated with our experiences on the road. I'm currently putting together posts on Vancouver B.C., Memphis and San Francisco. Of course, if we don't have photos, we don't have a post, so while we have a lot of recipes "in draft" we must take the photos to match what we want to write about, which can be the most daunting part of what we do, and for the most part the most fun. This I know for sure: it is our friends and family and the people we meet along the way that make our lives interesting and fun. I particularly love the communal experience of sharing both in the actual experience of preparing the food and eating it together as well. And, there is no better way to get to know a new acquaintance then sharing a meal whether at home or dining out. I find value in both options. I try a lot of new dishes while dining out that inspire me to come home and riff on the experience. Thank you for reading our blog and letting us know you are a fan. Receiving positive feedback gives us the fuel to carry on with testing, writing and photographing.

  3. Thanks so much, Michelle for taking time and answering. Highly appreciated. Whenever you drop by Montreal (my hometown), let me know: it's with great pleasure that I'd like to invite you around a good meal in town. Keep up with the amazing work!


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