Simple & Vegetable Bolognese

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After a much too long hiatus– WE ARE BACK! Life has a way of getting away from you, but rest assured, we didn’t spend the last couple months eating Top Ramen and Take-Out! We have managed to get out, eat some great food and even perfected the art of making omelettes (We will have to make a post about that soon).

What got us back into the kitchen with the camera was the realization that it’s been a year since we went to Los Angeles Food & Wine for an awesome night hosted by Giada De Laurentiis! With that in mind, we decided to create a meal in Giada’s honor utilizing two of her favorite Bolognese recipes: Vegetarian (Vegetable Bolognese) and Meaty (Simple Bolognese). After experiencing both, they are now two of our favorites as well!

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Both are served over rigatoni alongside simple roasted asparagus, tomatoes and some ciabatta bread! We made full recipe sizes of both dishes since we were cooking for 8, but there is no reason why you couldn’t half this recipe for a nice individual dinner. You’ll also have enough for that important leftover container for lunch the next day. Yum!

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Don’t worry about chopping the vegetables up too fine with the Simple Bolognese, it’s supposed to be chunky and turns out wonderful! In fact, I don’t see canned pasta entering our kitchen anytime soon after seeing how easy it is to create something really good. Especially if you have fresh herbs. Which is our way of saying don’t reach for that trusty bottle of dried herbs from 2007… please!!

We poured both sauces over rigatoni noodles but I’m sure you could use other noodles as well. After all, as long as the noodles are al dente then they are really just there to help complement and ultimately deliver that amazing sauce as the star of the show.

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As far as the Vegetable Bolognese is concerned, I (Daniel) personally liked this recipe the best. The others seemed to prefer the meaty deliciousness of the traditional Simple Bolognese sauce, but they are also rabid carnivores without the delicate palates that one requires to fully appreciate the intricate flavor profiles within the Veggie version lol! (Note from Kathleen: He’s just a bitter because I was the one in charge of making the Simple Bolognese, hehe.)

But seriously, I loved how the vegetable dish had layers of rich satisfying flavors, starting with the mushrooms (be sure to add by the weight of the package.. I.e. if you buy an 8 oz package and need 4 oz then use half, don’t rely on a measuring cup). We bought whole crimini and shiitake while following the directions and re-hydrating the porcini’s. This combo was excellent. The red wine added another layer of richness while the mushroom broth just took it over the top. Which was alright since the mascarpone cheese balanced the dish beautifully.

In some ways, this dish reminded me of an Italian version of beef stroganoff, which is high praise since I grew up with my mom’s take on that dish being my favorite meal.

One final piece of advice is to not be afraid to season these dishes throughout. Once the dish is safely cooked (raw meat is only good at Sushi restaurants), taste and adjust as needed. Also, in the case of the traditional (simple)Bolognese, the Pecorino Romano that is added in the end is very salty so be sure to allow for this. Buon appetito!

Simple Bolognese
Recipe courtesy Giada De Laurentiis

Total Time: 55 min
Prep:10 min
Cook:45 min
Yield:6 servings

Ingredients
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 celery stalk, coarsely chopped
1 carrot, coarsely chopped
1 pound ground chuck beef
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup flat-leaf Italian parsley, chiffonade
8 fresh basil leaves, chiffonade
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano

Directions
1. In a 6 quart pot, add extra-virgin olive oil. When almost smoking, add the onion and garlic and saute over medium heat until the onions become very soft, about 8 minutes.
2. Add the celery and carrot and saute for 5 minutes. Raise heat to high and add the ground beef. Saute, stirring frequently and breaking up any large lumps and cook until meat is no longer pink, about 8 minutes.
3. Add the tomatoes, parsley and basil and cook over medium low heat until the sauce thickens, about 1/2 hour.
4. Finish bolognese with Pecorino Romano. Check for seasoning.
5. Serve hot.

Rigatoni with Vegetable Bolognese
Recipe courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis

Total Time: 45 min
Prep: 20 min
Cook: 25 min
Yield:6 servings

Ingredients
1 -ounce dried porcini mushrooms
1 1/2 cups hot water
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2 garlic cloves
1/4 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano leaves
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
5 ounces assorted mushrooms (like shiitake, cremini, and brown), stemmed and chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup red wine
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
1 pound rigatoni pasta
1/4 cup Parmesan

Directions
1. Place the carrots, onion, bell pepper, and garlic in a food processor. Pulse the vegetables until finely chopped but still chunky.
2. Place the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chopped vegetables, thyme, oregano, salt, and pepper and cook until tender, about 6 minutes.
3. Strain the porcini mushrooms, reserving the porcini mushroom liquid.
4. Add the porcini mushrooms, fresh mushrooms, and tomato paste and continue cooking, stirring to dissolve the tomato paste, until the mushrooms are softened, about 5 minutes.
5. Add the porcini mushroom liquid and red wine. Bring the liquid to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and let the mixture simmer until the liquid is reduced by half, about 10 minutes.
6. Add mascarpone cheese and stir just until the cheese is incorporated.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid and add to the vegetable mixture. Add some of the reserved pasta cooking liquid, if necessary, to moisten the sauce. Toss with Parmesan and serve.

Blistered Tomatoes
Ingredients
Serving Size: 6 Servings
1lb or two dry pints of cherry tomatoes
1lb of thin asaragus, trimmed

Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Place asparagus and tomatoes on a baking sheet.
3. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
4. Roast for five to eight minutes or until crisp tender.

Written By: Daniel
Photos By: Kristine