Prep: 30 min
Cook: 35 min
T = Tablespoon
t = teaspoon
1 small onion; minced
1 med carrot; minced
1 med celery stalk; minced
1/2 cup white wine
3 garlic cloves; minced
1 bay leaf, fresh if you can find it.
2 T fresh sage; minced
1 T fresh thyme, minced
2 T tomato paste
1/4 oz (usually half the package) dried porcini mushrooms; powdered in grinder or mortar/pestle.
Olive oil as needed
1 cup BRD Beef Broth
1/2 cup pasta water
1/4 cup buttermilk, cream or whole milk.
1 lb fresh or dried pasta; pappardelle or other wide noodle works best.
3 T fresh parsley; rough chop
3 T parmesan cheese, grated
High Walled Sauté Pan; at least 10-12” wide
Large stock pot for cooking pasta
Microplane or grater
Several small bowls or a giant plate or two to hold all of your prepped ingredients.
Wide, shallow bowls for serving.
Most recipes skip this part because it's often redundant and some authors/chefs assume folks already know how to do this efficiently but in reality, prepping in an ordered and organized fashion is the skill that separates someone that cooks at home from home cooks.
Be diligent about prep now so when it comes time to cook, you can focus on creating a beautiful meal. Yes, it takes time and can dirty up dishes, but not scrambling around the kitchen while your food is on heat is freeing. While it seems like you are using a lot of time “not cooking,” the time you will save by not ruining dinner and leaving the kitchen a mess will get you in front of Netflix so much faster.
The Gist: Read the entire recipe before you start. Clean and cut all your ingredients as suggested. Think about how ingredients will be used and in what order. Set ingredients aside in an organized way, in the order that they will be used, consolidating if you can to save dishes. Place used dishes in a designated spot (sink or direct to dishwasher).
- The theme here is to make most of the ingredients as small as possible while maintaining some texture. The end result should be a uniform meat sauce where you will have trouble picking out the individual ingredients. Smaller is better but pasty is a bad thing.
- Put bacon slices the freezer. By the time you need them, they will be much easier to mince.
- Prep your veggies first to preserve the sanitation of your work surface. Mince the onion, celery and carrot (Mire Poix) together until it's all pretty much the same size. If you have a food processor, you can use that with great success by pulsing on and off for a minute or two until it all looks uniform in size, stopping if and when any significant liquid forms in the container. Do not use a blender or your will end up with veggie juice.
If you do not have either appliance, chop the onion, carrot and celery separately then pile them together. Using your chef’s knife and holding the tip in contact with the cutting surface the entire time, chop through the pile in a sweeping fan-shaped motion until all the pieces are uniform in size, probably 7-10 passes. Set aside.
- Mince garlic and hold separately from the mire poix.
- Mince the sage and thyme and set aside with the bay leaf.
- For the tomato paste, save yourself a lot of time, effort and money by purchasing the tomato paste that comes in the tube instead of the can. These are awesome for adding small amounts of tomato paste without having to throw away the rest of the can after it molds in your fridge after two months. You can squeeze the paste out directly into the pan.
- Open your thawed ground beef package and drain off the cellular moisture that's in the bag. Set aside.
- Add dried porcini to a spice grinder or mortar/pestle and grind to a fine powder. You can chop this by hand but be sure to get it as small as possible. Set aside.
- Open, drain and clean chicken livers by removing any connective tissue and fat. Mincing into a paste is fine here.
- Remove bacon from freezer and mince as fine as possible. Use the same chopping motion as you did with the mire poix. Set aside.
- Preheat pan over medium heat.
- Measure out your liquids into separate containers and set aside.
- Set your parsley and parmesan aside to be prepped later.
- Fill your stock pot with water up to the rivets of the handle and set over high heat to bring to a boil. Hold at a boil until you’re ready to cook the pasta.
For the Bolognese
- In your preheated pan, add bacon and allow the fat to begin to render out, about 3 mins. Add ground beef and spread across the surface of the pan. Let it sit untouched until the grey coloring starts to creep up the side of the meat. The longer you can leave it alone, the better the color on the bottom of the meat will be and this means flavor! Salt generously and add the chicken livers on top while you wait for the color to develop. Don't worry about having large chunks of meat, they will break down in cooking.
- Check the underside of the meat for color and start to break up the beef and incorporate the bacon and liver. Mix well then remove to a bowl, leaving juices and fat in the pan to cook the mire poix. Removing the meat protects it from overcooking while the other ingredients cook.
- Add mire poix and cook for 3-4 mins or until it starts to soften. Tilt the pan so that all the juices and fat coats it well. Once the onions become translucent, add minced garlic and stir. Sprinkle the mushroom powder on top and add tomato paste and combine well. Cook until the tomato paste starts to darken, 3-5 mins. Don’t worry about the meat or veggie mixture sticking to the pan, this is called ‘fond’ and is very tasty and will be dissolved into the sauce when the liquid is added.
- Add in sage, thyme and bay leaf and combine well. “Deglaze” the pan by adding in the white wine then scraping off all the fond from the pan. Cook until the liquid from the wine has evaporated. Replace the meat mixture and combine well. Add in beef broth and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and allow to reduce while pasta cooks.
For the Pasta
- Just before you are ready to drop your pasta in the boiling water, add salt. A lot of salt. Like a handful of salt. The water should taste like the ocean. You are using a lot of water too cook the pasta and adding salt to it is the only way to season the pasta itself. The majority of the salt will remain in the cooking liquid and be discarded so salt intake is not an issue. This is what separates pasta from good pasta.
- Cook pasta as directed minus 2 mins from the package directions for dried pasta. For fresh pasta, cook for 3 mins. Do yourself a favor and look in the refrigerated section of the grocery or for a vendor at the market that sells packaged fresh pasta. It's usually by the bakery and fancy cheeses and will keep for 2-3 days after purchase. Sure, it doesn’t store as long as dried but if you regularly use an entire box of pasta per meal, who cares how long it lasts?
- While the pasta cooks, add the milk to bolognese and stir well.
- When the pasta has cooked as suggested, above remove from water with tongs and place into the simmering sauce. Using tongs allows you to reserve the cooking liquid rather than pouring in through a colander and down the drain. You can reserve the pasta water for the next step then use a colander if you must.
- Using the measuring cup, scoop out a 1/2 cup of pasta water and add to the pan. The starches left in the cooking water will help to thicken the sauce as it reduces.
- Combine the pasta and the sauce, being sure to coat the pasta well. Cook until you like the texture of the pasta.
- Using the tongs, serve pasta into the shallow bowls. For a nice presentation, add one scoop of bolognese sauce to the bottom of the bowl before you put any pasta in. Then add one tong’s-worth of pasta, followed by a second tong’s-worth, but this time, twirl the tongs in your hand — like a fork when eating pasta — as you lower it into the bowl. You’ll end up with a loose ball of pasta on top that looks perfect! Finish with another scoop of bolognese. Sprinkle with parsley and grate the parmesan directly over the bowl with a swirl of olive oil if you feel inclined.