Becoming Basic Bolognese

I’ve been eating a good bit of food from Trader Joe’s lately. It’s reasonably well made, affordable and easy to throw together. One of the things I really like is the “Just Sauce – Turkey Bolognese” frozen pasta sauce. In the matter of minutes I can have a nice meal on a plate and it helps me with my earlier blog promise to go East instead of West in my shopping endeavors (aka Trader’s over Whole Foods). Tonight on the other hand I went West and bought the stuff I would need to make a very basic meat sauce, aka “sugo”, aka my version of a quickie Bolognese.

I have never had any intention of turning this blog into a food or recipe blog. Instead I have always wanted to tell a story about something that is happening in my everyday life and see how it applies to the greater world. Tonight I guess that means a summary of what I’m cooking for dinner, so then on to the sauce it is I suppose.

I thought I would try my hand at putting together something delicious for less than $25 that I could eat for the next few days. Funny in my old life I had to eat something “new” each night. End result was a fridge full of leftovers that would never get eaten. Nowadays I’m pretty content with whatever is on hand even if it means the same thing for a better part of the week. It’s nice to be a little less wasteful and a little more content with the simple things, the current situation. Lesson learned.

I’m not sure there is anything traditional about this Bolognese sauce I am putting together as I type this blog. It’s a quickie. It has a number of ad lib adjustments. It’s just something that seems like it will be fairly delicious and it all fits in one pan so that makes for an easy clean up which is particularly nice on the day that our housekeeper Gladis scrubbed down everything in my kitchen!

My Whole Foods shopping list includes:

1/2 # ground veal ($4), 1/2 # ground pork ($3), 1/2 # ground chuck ($2), 1 carrot (50 cents), 1 white onion ($1), 1 stalk of celery (had already), 3 cloves of garlic (had already), 1 can San Marzano tomatoes ($3), 2 – 6 oz. cans tomato paste ($2), 4 0z. white wine (had already), 4 oz. red wine (had already), 1 box of De Cecco Spaghetti ($3) and 4 oz Reggiano Parmigiana cheese ($4).

I minced the celery, carrot and onion finely. I sauteed the three veggies in a bit of olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper to taste. I’m heavy on the hand with pepper but light with salt. Obviously you can adjust to your own tastes. When the onion was translucent I added all three ground meats and stirred and chopped the meats with a wooden spoon until they were cooked through. After that I added the chopped garlic and cooked for two more minutes. I like to add the garlic towards the end because then it has a sweet influence instead of a bitter one. Next comes the wine. By then I had already drank a couple of glasses of the red, but I added the white and the red (that was left) together and cooked over high heat until it was almost totally reduced to no liquid. I suspect you could use either white or red, but I’ve always found that the two together were greater than either one on its own. Just a gut feeling so I stick with it. After the wine was reduced I added one large can of the crushed Italian tomatoes and the two can of tomato paste. I stirred the whole mess until it was one even consistency and the I re-seasoned with more salt and pepper to taste. I have a passion for acidity and sweetness, so I added a spoon of sugar and a dash of balsamic vinegar at this point, but that is totally optional. From there it’s just a matter of letting it simmer, the longer the better, a minimum of 30 minutes but up to two hours. I suspect this would be delicious with any noodle. I like good old spaghetti because it is simple and it makes it “Spaghetti Bolognese”. Also when I cook pasta I always cook it in heavily salted water because it makes the water boil at a higher temperature and it gives the noodles a base layer of flavor.

When it’s all done I like to mix a small amount of the sauce with the cooked and drained pasta and then ladle more sauce over the top with a finishing touch of some finely grated Reggiano Parmigiana cheese.

I’m about to sit down with my finished product. The last time I ate a three meat Bolognese sauce pasta was on a fall night in Montmarte on the Rue de Abbesses. I suspect it will be hard to equal that meal from an experience standpoint, but I’m fairly confident I  can get close from a taste standpoint.

Tonight in yoga we meditated on the concept of “Isvara pranidhana” which in layman’s terms is about surrendering to the circumstances of the moment regardless of past or future expectations. Tonight for me that means a simple but home cooked Italian dinner, memories of a special night in the past, some classic French music from a composer named Thibaudet, and looking forward to the same meal over the next few future nights. And ultimately an appreciation of some pretty damn good circumstances. Spaghetti Bolognese never tasted quite so good!


    About Jim Herbert

    I've been wanting to write my whole life. By age 45 it had amounted to nothing more than a storage locker of half full journals and a lot of unfulfilled dreams. Then Paris in the fall of 2011 happened. It was the catalyst I needed to consistently blog. At first I had a hard time hitting the publish button, but now two blog sites and over 300 posts later I'm hitting my stride. I'm also a budding speech writer. I've recently been heavily involved in the Chicago Storytelling scene and have also won the Chicago Toastmasters Area 66 International Speech Contest. Check out our website at for more details about the amazing things that are happening in my life. A book or two are nearing completion. With another Paris trip on tap for Easter of 2015 I can only imagine that there are Infinite Possibilities on the horizon!!!
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