Bolognese Sauce

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06:31   |   Apr 25, 2019


Bolognese Sauce
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  • When I make bolognese sauce, I make a giant pot, because you can use it for a ton of things,
  • and it freezes really well
  • My bolognese starts with a whole pound of carrots. They make the sauce sweet and hearty.
  • The skins are bitter, so I take them off. So are the root ends, you gotta cut them off
  • too. The tips just tend to just be a little dried out, doesn’t really matter if you
  • cut them off. Now, to dice carrots, you cut them in half, then you cut each half into
  • long, thin slices. Then you lay the slices flat, and you cut them into matchsticks. Cut
  • across the matchsticks to make a fine dice and this is gonna take for **** ever and I
  • am using my food processor! This usually goes better if you break the carrots into chunks
  • before you put them in.
  • There, doesn’t need to be too fine nor too perfect, because this is gonna cook for hours,
  • it’ll all break down. Now, I do one large red onion, and onions you really do need to
  • cut into a few chunk before your process them, and only doing one half at a time helps too,
  • otherwise some big pieces just seem to never get cut up. They just spin around.
  • This is my 7-quart Dutch oven. If I could only have one pot or pan my whole kitchen,
  • this would be it. You can do almost anything in it. But for this, use the largest pot that
  • uou’ve got, or maybe a couple smaller ones.
  • Gonna fry the veggies in olive oil on high heat. There’s a ton of water in these, so
  • they’re not gonna burn as long as you keep them moving. We just gotta give them a head-start
  • on the cooking. When they’ve shrunk down and they’re looking soft, I dump them out.
  • More oil in the pan and then three pounds of ground meat. This is beef chuck, you could
  • use something leaner like sirloin, but I really like the fat. Sometimes I use lamb too, which
  • is really nice.
  • Now this is the most important and labor-intensive step of the whole process. I switch over to
  • a wooden spoon, and I use it to mash up the ground meat as I am stirring it around. I’m
  • really going to town on this stuff, breaking it all apart. I don’t want little meatballs
  • in this sauce, and if they form now, it’ll be nearly impossible to break them up later.
  • So with that rigid spoon, I’m just stirring and mashing, stirring and mashing. Five minutes
  • go by, and now the meat is kinda gray and swimming in liquid. A lot of people think
  • that’s fat; it’s mostly water, and it will boil off. Just keep cooking on high heat
  • and keep everything moving, or it’ll stick and burn. Another five minutes go by, and
  • as the water evaporates, the sound changes. Instead of hissing, the pan starts to roar
  • and crackle.
  • That is the sound of all those little bits of meat starting to fry in their own rendered
  • fat. Now is when this will change from gray to brown, and the kitchen will suddenly smell
  • different. It’ll smell amazing. If you’re not doing this with your ground beef recipes,
  • you are missing out. Now comes the secret ingredient: a pound of
  • chicken livers. I am not kidding. I lifted this idea from Barbara Lynch. It is genius.
  • I just dump them in the food processor. I don’t want to turn them into paté, but
  • just short of that. And in they go, toward the end of the browning process. Liver gets
  • gritty if you overcook it. Then I stir in a 6-ounce can of tomato paste, and at this
  • point, you gotta be really careful. See that carpet of brown stuff stuck to the bottom?
  • The second that’s about to burn, I pour in a whole bottle of white wine, and scrape
  • like a ************. Scrape scrape scrape scrape the whole bottom off, because it tastes
  • good, and if you leave it there, it’s gonna burn.
  • Vegetables go back in. They would have burned if I’d left them in while I browned the
  • meat. Then a good-quality 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes. Then another one. And then
  • another one. I’m going for something halfway between the traditional ragù alla Bolognese,
  • which has hardly any tomato at all, and the traditional Italian-American meat sauce, which
  • is basically tomato sauce with little clumps of ground beef floating around in it. I like
  • something in the middle of those extremes.
  • Here comes my favorite cheat: liquid chicken bouillon. A big spoonful. It’s crazy salty,
  • but this big pot needs salt, so it’s fine. Now I just get this to a heat where it’s
  • kinda burbling, and I’m gonna cook it for three hours, stirring every 15 minutes or
  • so to make sure the bottom doesn’t catch and burn.
  • While we’re waiting, let’s talk about those chicken livers. Don’t be freaked out.
  • This sauce will not taste like liver. You don’t have to tell anybody they’re in
  • there. It will, however, taste meatier than any meat sauce you’ve ever had, and that
  • is thanks in no small part to the livers.
  • Alright, it’s been two hours, let’s have a look at this thing. I’m always amazed
  • by how little this reduces, any yet it does thicken up. I reckon that’s just from all
  • the solids breaking down. This is when I season. I just do about tablespoon of dried basil,
  • dried parsley, dried oregano, and a little less dried thyme. I have no idea how much
  • garlic powder that is. Whole bunch of pepper, then this instant source of sweet and sour:
  • maybe a quarter cup of balsamic vinegar. I generally think dried herbs are better for
  • long-cooked dishes, even then I think they taste better if you put them in during the
  • last hour of cooking. The vinegar you could put in whenever, as long as the sauce is hot.
  • That’ll boil off the harsh vinegar scent.
  • OK, an hour later and I’ll put some pasta on the boil. Look at how thick and rich that
  • is now. Time to give it a taste. I’ll do a little more balsamic and some salt. Remember
  • that all sauces should be too strong, because their flavor will be diluted by the rest of
  • the food. Drain the pasta, and I just do a couple big spoonfulls of sauce per portion
  • with a little fresh herb in there. That’s parsley. Grate some cheese on top and I like
  • to drizzle some raw olive oil on the plate.
  • Now that’s damn good, but let me show you a variation. Sometimes I spoon some sauce
  • into a pot and drizzle in some heavy cream. Boil it until the cream thickens, and throw
  • in the pasta and some fresh basil, and that is sweet and sour and meaty and velvety and
  • rich, all at the same time.
  • Once the rest of the sauce cools down a bit, I just smear it into a bunch of ice cube trays.
  • You could freeze it in a big plastic bin or something, but this makes it so easy to thaw
  • out exactly the amount that you need. Throw them in the freezer, come back the next day
  • and just twist to release them and dump into a giant ziplock bag.
  • Then, when you get home at the end of a long day, you just grab three cubes per person,
  • throw them in a bowl and microwave until thawed. And while it’s still hot, put in a little
  • bit more balsamic. That really brightens it back up after its been in the freezer for
  • a while, and again, that hot sauce will boil off the harsh nose on the vinegar. Then just
  • throw that on your pasta, and you’ve got a deeply-flavored, slow-simmered, home-cooked
  • meal in like 10 minutes, or however long it took to boil the pasta. I don’t know what
  • I would do without this stuff. It’s great.
  • I had some extra that I didn’t freeze, by the way. I am gonna use that to make my lasagna,
  • which is going to be the next video that I edit.

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Makes about 6 quarts of sauce, enough for about 60 portions of pasta (freeze it!)

olive oil
1 lb carrots
1 large red onion
1 lb chicken livers
3 lbs ground meat (I like to use beef and lamb)
6 oz can tomato paste
3 28 oz cans crushed tomatoes
1 bottle white wine
Liquid chicken bouillon (or a stock cube)
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp dried parsley
1 tbsp dried basil
1 tbsp dried thyme
1 tbsp garlic powder
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

Peel and finely chop the carrots and onion. In a large pot (at least 7 quarts), fry the vegetables in olive oil on high heat until soft, stirring constantly. Dump them out into a bowl or plate.

Finely chop the livers until almost pureed.

In the big pot, fry the ground meat in olive oil on high heat, stirring and scraping constantly with a wooden spoon to keep meatballs from forming. Cook until most of the water evaporates and the pan starts to crackle. Put in the livers and the tomato paste and stir to combine.

When the brown stuff on the bottom of the pot looks like it's about to burn, pour in the wine and scrape to release everything on the bottom. Stir in a big spoonful of the bouillon. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for two hours, stirring occasionally to make sure the bottom doesn't stick and burn.

After two hours, season the sauce with the herbs and vinegar. Simmer an additional hour. When it's the desired thickness, taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

Use, or freeze in ice cube trays, or both. After thawing and reheating, add a few more drops of balsamic vinegar.

I don't like weighing or measuring things if I don't have to, and I don't like to be constantly checking a recipe as I cook. I don't care that volume is a bad way of measuring things — it's usually easier. I like for a recipe to get me in the ballpark, and then I like to eyeball and improvise the rest. If you're like me, my goal with these videos is to give you a sense of how the food should look and feel as you're cooking it, rather than give you a refined formula to reproduce.