Sunday, November 27, 2011

Red Meat Sauce and Its Hearty Vegetarian Sibling

Turkey Antidote.  Meat Sauce.  There’s a vegetarian version here too. 

Make a big batch of the classic meat sauce and serve it family style over a platter of wide fettuccini noodles or sauce-catching rotini pasta.  With a generous green salad laced with shaved Parmesan and warm bread this is a satisfying transition out of turkey time. 

My version mixes classic Bolognese sauce recipes with a simple meat sauce packed with extra vegetables.  To make this more Bolognese-like, add the optional milk or cream at the end before serving.

House Meat Sauce
Makes 7-8 cups sauce

2 carrots
2 celery stalks
1 medium onion
8 oz mushrooms
1 zucchini
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds ground meat (any combination of beef, veal, pork and turkey)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup milk
1 28 oz can tomato puree
1 28 oz can chopped tomatoes
2 tablespoons grated parmesan
1 teaspoon sugar or honey
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Optional: 1 cup cream or while milk

Peel and coarsely chop carrots, celery and onion.  Place in a food processor and process to a very fine dice.  Put mixture in a large pot.  
  2. Next, place roughly chopped mushrooms and zucchini in food processor and process to a very fine dice.  (By separating the harder and softer vegetables, you will not over process the mushrooms and under-chop the hard carrots.   You can also grate the carrots and finely chop the remaining vegetables by hand if you don’t own a food processer.)  
  3. Add the mushrooms and zucchini to the pot and add vegetable oil.  Sauté over medium heat until vegetables are tender.  
  4. Push vegetables to the side of the pot and add ground meats. Add a bit more vegetable oil if needed and cook meat, stirring occasionally until no longer pink.  
  5. Add wine and cook for 2-3 minutes, then add milk and continue cooking another 2-3 minutes until most of the liquid is absorbed.  
  6. Lower heat and add tomato puree and tomatoes plus remaining ingredients (except cream).  Cover and cook sauce on very low heat – barely a simmer- for 90 minutes.  Check sauce and stir as needed to ensure it is cooking on a low simmer.  
  7. If adding cream/milk, stir in now and cook 5 minutes longer before serving sauce.
“Vegetarian Bolognese”
Omit the meats and double the amount of mushrooms and zucchini.  A small eggplant can also be peeled, diced and added (about 2 cups) during the sautéing period of the recipe.   I also like to add 1/3 cup ricotta cheese to the vegetarian version. 

Freeze cooled leftover sauce in portions that fit your household.  Reheat for another simple pasta night or use it in lasagna, over manicotti or stuffed shells. 

Note: Bolognese recipes rarely contain herbs or spices.  Add them if you like or serve the sauce with a handful of fresh, shredded basil on each plate.