How To: Make a Hearty Bolognese Sauce

One of the best winter meals my mom makes is a Bolognese sauce over pasta. Warm, hearty pasta is always a delicious choice when the weather cools down. But when you add a creamy, meaty, cheesy sauce over the top, you're talking my language.

November is here, so it is time to start enjoying delicious, belly-warming meals. Here's how you can make the best Bolognese sauce for the best cold-winter night dinner.

There are a few key ingredients that set each Bolognese apart. If you choose the right ones, you'll make a stand-out recipe.

First, every Bolognese sauce begins with some fat and vegetables. My mom always adds about a quarter-pound of bacon to a large saucepan. Let the bacon cook completely and remove the bacon from the pan, but leave the grease in the pan.

Now it's time to add the vegetables to the bacon grease. Add one finely diced carrot, one diced onion and one diced celery stalk. If there isn't enough bacon grease to cook the vegetables completely, then add a tablespoon of butter. Once the vegetables simmer over medium heat and they are translucent, add one clove of minced garlic and cook for 30 seconds. You need to add the garlic last; otherwise it will burn if it cooks too long.

Next, add the heart of the sauce: the meat. My mom never uses just one type of meat in her Bolognese sauce; she always uses two kinds. Her go-to combo is one pound each of ground veal and ground pork. The difference in fat and flavor between the two combines to create an amazing sauce.

You'll see that at this point, the meat and vegetables will stick to the pan and create a lot of brown bits on the sides and bottom of the pan (those brown bits are better known as "fond"). This is the perfect time to add a little wine to the pan. Deglaze the pan with either one cup white wine or red wine. Let the wine reduce slightly, then add the tomato paste. Mario Batali says the amount of tomato paste in a sauce should equal the amount of toothpaste needed for however many people the sauce serves. It's a quirky analogy, but it works.

Add the cooked, chopped bacon back into the sauce and let it simmer for approximately 1 to 1-1/2 hours over low heat. You want the sauce to thicken up as much as possible and get all of the ingredients completely incorporated together.

Most recipes will tell you to have already added the cream or milk to the Bolognese sauce, but my mom always waits until the last minute to pour the cup of heavy cream into the sauce. This lets the cream have a distinct taste in the sauce because it blends with the sauce for a few minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

I always use a thick pasta to pair with the thick, rich Bolognese sauce; try pappardelle or tagliatelle with this sauce, and top each plate with a chiffonade of basil and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. Bon appétit!

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