Spaghetti Bolognese

Mama mia! I love Italian cuisine. This recipe formed a staple of my diet for a decade. Its very inexpensive and the leftovers only improve with age. I used to make a batch of this sauce and eat spaghetti for a week. You can freeze it to save in single serve bags if the quantity is too much and you don't like eating the same thing for several days. There are a million variations on this theme so don't be afraid to improvise. Its likely that I haven't made it exactly the same way twice.


  • 1 lb of Ground Beef
  • 1-30 oz Can of Crushed Tomatoes
  • 2-15 oz Cans of Diced Tomatoes with Italian Herbs (Del Monte, Hunts, etc.)
  • 2-6 oz cans of Tomato Paste
  • Sliced Fresh Portobello Mushrooms
  • Red Roasted Peppers (e.g. Mancini)
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Fresh Chopped or Minced Garlic
  • Oregano
  • Basil or Pesto
  • Rosemary
  • Marjoram
  • Thyme
  • Black Pepper
  • Paprika
  • Tarragon
  • The Method:

    Brown the meat on medium heat, stirring constantly to an even doneness. Don't overcook it and make it tough (yes, browned ground meat can be rubbery). Drain the water and fat. If you're in a hurry then set the meat aside and next saute the fresh mushrooms in a skillet with a little olive oil until tender. Otherwise add a generous amount of extra virgin olive oil (several tablespoons full) and turn the range down to low. "Extra virgin" means that it has the full flavor; specifically it relates to the first pressing of the olives (How virginal can you be? Apparently in Italy there are degrees...). For a variation here you could add or substitute Italian sausage or even stew meat. Obviously this can be made as a meat free marinara sauce.

    You may need to transfer your meat and mushrooms to a 5 quart or larger sauce pan at this stage. Combine the browned meat and mushrooms with the crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, tomato paste and roasted red peppers (you may want to cut the peppers into smaller bits). This should produce a fairly thick mixture. It will loosen up as it cooks and you don't want a runny sauce, so refrain from the urge to add water.

    The fun begins. I usually dump in a heaping teaspoon of fresh minced garlic. This is the stuff that you can buy in the produce section in a little jar. It is infinitely better than powdered garlic (that's fine for making garlic bread). Never use "garlic salt". This is an abomination and unhealthy to boot. Next a teaspoon or so of fresh basil (also comes in a little jar) or pesto sauce will add a deeper pungeunce. Rosemary is a classic Mediterranean herb and I always use it, but it is basically spruce needles so it needs to simmer for a while to soften. Marjoram, oregano and thyme are fine zesty spices. Use plenty. I typically open the perforated port and dust the surface of the sauce liberally, tapping the bottom of the can. A goodly shot of black pepper won't do it any harm either. A little paprika is appropriate, even though the red roasted peppers are the same thing. Finally, I like to use a small amount of tarragon. This takes a little more judgement since tarragon has a very strong flavor. It is a pungeunt bitter herb but it will give a wonderful distinctive note to your sauce in moderation (1/2 tsp or so).

    Simmer on low heat for as long as you can stand it. It only improves with simmering as the flavors develop. Be sure to prevent the bottom from burning.

    Serve over spaghetti or vermicelli pasta (either plain, whole wheat or spinach), with marinated artichoke hearts, giardinara, and hot peppers to complement the sauce (on the side, I mean). A mixed green salad with ripe tomatoes, cucumbers, sharp red onion, a little crumbled blue cheese and an Italian vinaigrette dressing or else a caesar salad seems a perfect side dish. You might also try a side of steamed zucchini or yellow squash or some green vegetable. I like a spicy zinfandel with spaghetti, but a merlot or cabernet will do as well.

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