Pasta Bolognese

Bolognese is a thick meat sauce that’s frequently served in Northern Italy, and that we enjoyed while there – so I had to reproduce it for home.  The Italians really know how to enjoy their foodPasta Bolognese and wine, everything is so fresh, and just tastes wonderful.  The recipe for this dish is adapted from one in Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa How Easy Is That?, and an Italian dinner featuring it would probably start with an appetizer course, follow with a first course, then this, and finish with a desert.  I’m planning an appetizer of roasted shrimp, followed by a salad, then the Bolognese, and finally a desert of Panna Cotta.   Of course, there would be Italian bread served with the meal.  Yum!  This recipe serves 4 generously.

1 lb. lean ground beef (I often substitute ground venison)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon dried oregano

4 cloves minced garlic (optional)

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1 1/4 cups dry red wine

1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes

2 tablespoons tomato paste

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

3/4 lb. dried pasta (such as penne, orecchiette, or small shells)

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves

1/4 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet, add the ground meat, and cook over medium heat (breaking the meat apart) until the meat has browned.  Add the oregano, garlic, red pepper flakes, and 1 cup of the red wine.  Stir to scrape up any browned meat pieces, and add the tomatoes, tomato paste, 1/2 tablespoon salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper.  Stir to combine, bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 10 minutes.

Bring a large pot of water to boil, add 1 tablespoon salt, a splash of oil, and the pasta.  Cook the pasta according to package directions.

Meanwhile, add the nutmeg, basil, cream, and remaining 1/4 cup wine to the sauce and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring periodically until the sauce has thickened.  When the pasta is done, drain and pour into a large serving bowl.  Add the sauce and Parmesan, and toss well.  Serve hot with extra Parmesan on the side.

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