Bolognese? If I said that my best friend growing up, Mary, was Italian would that convince you that I may know a thing or two about this awesome sauce? How about if I mentioned that I would watch her mother, Nancy, make her homemade gravy every week? No. Still not convinced. Well, OK. Perhaps the only thing that really matters is that I just love Bolognese and I have experimented with ingredients for years trying to get the perfect combination down for the recipe.
Why go to that much effort? Besides the fact that I love Bolognese, restaurant versions of this meat sauce are very high in calories and fat. The average pasta and Bolognese entrée can be estimated at ringing in between 1300-1700 calories and 79-103 grams of fat. That is ridiculous!
In order to be able to enjoy one of my favorite meals often I figured it best that I learn how to make it myself. So I did. And I have to say, I find that it tastes just as good as one I would eat in a restaurant, without all of the calories and fat!
I think the secret to this sauce is the slow cooker. And although I highly recommend that everyone get a slow cooker, if you don’t have one, you can cook this in the oven in an oven proof heavy casserole dish at 200 degrees for 6 hours. Disclaimer: I have never done it this way before. And unlike with a slow cooker, I don’t recommend that you leave the house while the oven is on.
One more thing. Sometimes, when I need to get dinner on the table fast or when the family wants a bowl of Bolognese but I didn’t have the chance to get around to it –I admit it — I fake it. It doesn’t taste quite the same but it definitely does the trick. I wonder if anyone has even notices, no one has ever complained. Just don’t tell Nancy.
- 1 tbsp. light butter (such as Land O' Lakes)
- 1 large white onion, (about 1 heaping cup) minced
- 2 celery stalks (about ¾ cup), minced
- 2 carrots (about ¾ cup), minced
- 2 pounds lean or extra lean ground meat (I use 96% extra lean beef)
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ cup white or red wine (either work fine)
- 2 - 28 oz. cans crushed tomatoes
- 3 bay leaves
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more to taste, I use 2 teaspoons)
- ½ cup fat free half & half
- In a large sauté pan over medium-low heat melt butter and sauté onions, celery and carrots until soft, about 5 minutes.
- Increase flame to medium-high; add meat, season with salt and pepper and sauté until browned. Drain the fat. Add the wine; cook, stirring frequently for about 4 minutes.
- Add meat to the slow cooker. Add tomatoes, bay leaves, garlic, and red pepper flakes; mix well, cover and set slow cooker to LOW for 6 hours.
- When the 6 hours are through, add additional salt and pepper if needed and half & half; stir and serve over spaghetti squash or whole wheat pasta. Sprinkle with grated Parmigiano Reggiano if desired.
Leftovers can be frozen in freezer friendly containers, thawed in the refrigerator then reheated on the stove or microwave.