I love Italian food. I can honestly say that when travelling through all parts of Italy, I have never had a bad meal. Whether enjoying a small-town home-cooked meal or one in an elegant restaurant, it’s easy to understand why Italian cooking is considered one of the great cuisines of the world.
One of my favorite dishes to have for lunch in Italy is a simple pasta with Bolognese sauce - Ragù alla Bolognese. This meat-based sauce originated in Bologna and is generally used to top broad flat noodles such as tagliatelle or fettuccine. Although not the most traditional, my absolute favorite is on top of spaghetti – affectionately referred to colloquially as “spaghetti bolo.” The sauce is very easy to make (hence the name “Lazy Bolognese”) and can be stored in the freezer until you need a quick dinner.
It’s always better to make your sauce from scratch rather than buying salty, sugar-laden commercial sauces. The secret to this recipe is to buy the absolutely best canned tomatoes. I prefer Muir Glen organic canned tomatoes. Most importantly, don’t buy canned tomatoes that have added salt or sugar.
¼ cup olive oil
1 celery rib, finely chopped
½ medium onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1½ pound ground beef (you can use ground pork, chicken or turkey if you prefer)
½ cup dry red wine
2 tablespoons tomato paste
28 oz. can whole tomatoes, crushed by hand
1 teaspoon dried oregano or marjoram
Crushed red pepper, salt and pepper to taste
Low sodium Worcestershire sauce, to taste
In a saucepan, heat the olive oil until shimmering, sauté the celery, carrot and onion until soft.
Add the ground meat and cook until the meat is fully browned. Use a wooden spoon to keep the meat crumbled.
Add the red wine and simmer five minutes until the wine has mostly evaporated.
Stir in the tomato paste and oregano, simmer an additional 2 minutes.
Add the tomatoes, including the juices, cover the pan and simmer the Bolognese on very low heat for about 1 hour, checking often to make sure it does not stick or dry out. If it starts to get too dry, add a splash more of red wine. If the sauce has too much liquid, let it simmer for a while with the cover off.
Season with salt and pepper to taste. If you want to spice it up – add ½ teaspoon of crushed red pepper. You can also stir in some low sodium Worcestershire sauce to add “umami” and enrichen the flavor.
Serve the sauce over cooked spaghetti, fettuccini or tagliatelle.