Quick & Fabulous Bolognese

I am so susceptible to pictures and videos of food being made; I see something that looks delicious, and I can just imagine how good things smell as they’re sizzling in a big stainless pan.  Just imagining the sweet warm scent that olive oil releases as it gently heats in the pan, and how that scent changes each time a new ingredient is added to it: some minced garlic, a chopped onion, or maybe some celery, makes me want to try that recipe, too.  It’s addictive, almost. I love watching “food tv,” and I love trying out new recipes.

Well, Ina hooked me yesterday.  She calmly talked her way through what she calls “Weeknight Bolognese.” She calls it that because bolognese usually takes hours and hours to cook, therefore the average person couldn’t really make it during the week.  It’s a project to tackle on, say, a cold and rainy Saturday morning.

Ina came up with her own version that is so quick that it can easily be made by a hurried person after work or school.

I particularly enjoyed her choice of pasta: orecchiette.  This pasta is perfect for a hearty sauce like bolognese, as it’s thick, and has a nice curved shape, perfect for holding onto the sauce.  If you can’t find orecchiette, a great substitute would be small shell pasta, which is more widely available.

I hope you’ll try this soon; it may just break you from your “jar of sauce” habit when  you taste how much better it is than that bland, watery stuff.

Weeknight Bolognese

2010, Barefoot Contessa How Easy is That?. All Rights Reserved

Prep Time:  15 min
Cook Time:  30 min
Level:  Easy
Serves:  4 to 5 servings


  • 2 tablespoons good olive oil, plus extra to cook the pasta
  • 1 pound lean ground sirloin
  • 4 teaspoons minced garlic (4 cloves)
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/4 cups dry red wine, divided
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 pound dried pasta, such as orecchiette or small shells
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves, lightly packed
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving


Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large (12-inch) skillet over medium-high heat. Add the ground sirloin and cook, crumbling the meat with a wooden spoon, for 5 to 7 minutes, until the meat has lost its pink color and has started to brown. Stir in the garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes and cook for 1 more minute. Pour 1 cup of the wine into the skillet and stir to scrape up any browned bits. Add the tomatoestomato paste, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper, stirring until combined. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil, add a tablespoon of salt, a splash of oil, and the pasta, and cook according to the directions on the box.

While the pasta cooks, finish the sauce. Add the nutmeg, basil, cream, and the remaining 1/4 cup wine to the sauce and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until thickened. When the pasta is cooked, drain and pour into a large serving bowl. Add the sauce and 1/2 cup Parmesan and toss well. Serve hot with Parmesan on the side.


Notes:  As I worked through the recipe, I made a couple of slight changes, based on what I had in my kitchen.  Instead of all ground beef, I used half ground pork, half ground chuck, and I believe it actually totaled 1.5 pounds.

Also, instead of fresh basil, I used about two and a half teaspoons dried basil.

If you have no wine, don’t let that stop you from trying this.  Just use chicken broth or even water in its place.  The wine gives it a nice, complex flavor, but this is going to be very flavorful, in a different way, without the addition of wine.  Still so good!

Also, I didn’t have tomato paste; I added about two cups of tomato sauce that was in the cabinet.

I think it’s important to adapt recipes that you want to try according to what’s in your pantry and fridge, friends.  Don’t let not having one thing, like tomato paste, stop you from trying a recipe if there’s a reasonable substitution. It’s really ok! 🙂


(Have you tried my perfect and perfectly simple alfredo sauce? It’s so creamy and delicious (and super-fast) that you won’t want to buy a jar of alfredo sauce again, either!  Here’s the recipe.)


2 thoughts on “Quick & Fabulous Bolognese

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s