Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Bolognese Sauce

I made 11 pans of lasagna this week. Two were experimental, two were test runs and seven were for an auction that I prepared food for. The first two pans of lasagna were vegetarian and made with a white sauce. I really struggled with them. I have come to the conclusion that vegetarian lasagna needs the acidity of tomatoes and the texture from ricotta. I love the leek and artichoke vegetarian lasagna from Greens cookbook but it has ricotta in it. I will keep experimenting but so far, I haven't found a "true white sauce" (i.e. no ricotta and no tomato sauce) vegetarian lasagna that I like.

The third lasagna of the week was a basic cheese lasagna with a pound of mozzarella, a pound of ricotta, parmesan, noodles and marinara. This is a great fast eats recipe that can be made in ten minutes. You could spend longer, if you wished to, making a great marinara from scratch with vegetable add-ins or mix fresh herbs into the ricotta or mix spinach into the ricotta or all of the above. Coming to the conclusion that vegetarian lasagna works best with ricotta was hard for me to admit because I recently embraced lasagna bolognese. Real lasagna bolognese, with no ricotta. It is hands down my favorite kind of lasagna. After my vegetarian lasagna endeavors I returned to this favorite and made enough bolognese sauce for three 10 x 15 pans of lasagna. Here is the recipe that I ended up with.

Bolognese Sauce

3 T Olive Oil
2 pounds ground beef
2 pounds ground pork
1 pounds Italian Sausage, casings removed
1.5 cups dry white wine
4 28 ounce cans of crushed tomatoes
4 onions, finely chopped
4 carrots, finely chopped
4 celery sticks, finely chopped
1.5 tsp crushed fennel seeds
1 T dried oregano
1 T dried thyme

Yields enough for three large pans of lasagna

Pour the Olive Oil into a large pan set over medium low heat. Add the onions, carrots and celery and stir, cooking, until the onion is translucent. Transfer the vegetable mixture to a bowl. Add the meat to the pan, breaking it up with a wooden spoon and stirring until there are no pieces of meat bigger than a lima bean. Cook over medium heat until the meat is no longer red. At this point you will most likely need to drain off all the fat. You can do this by transferring the meat with a slotted spoon to a bowl or by pouring the meat into a fine sieved colander placed over a bowl and letting it drain. Put the meat and vegetables back in the pan and turn the heat up to medium to medium high. Add the wine and stir, scraping the bottom of the pan. Boil off almost all of the wine and then add the rest of the ingredients. Bring to a simmer, taste and add salt and pepper. Stir every 10 - 20 minutes,  for about two hours.

Note: If you like a looser sauce you can stop after an hour. For Lasagna Bolognese or a thicker sauce, cook longer until more liquid has evaporated off. I would also recommend that you taste and add salt and pepper (if needed) every thirty minutes or so.

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