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So to debunk my typical Sunday posting routine, I’m rebelling and re-surfacing (re-bumping, is that a word?) one of my favorite slow cooker recipes I posted last fall.  When you’ve got ground beef thawing in the fridge for the second time around after refreezing it, it’s got to move forward or risk losing its flavor… or maybe that’s just me. Thankfully it’s still sealed up like it was in the grocery store.

Polenta with Bolognese Sauce isn’t the traditional way to welcome Spring, but Spring has yet to officially boing and spring around here.  Cold, biting winds, a few snow flurries even into early April, rain (well, that’s typical) and some nasty flu bugs going around are making it tough to break free from the grips of Winter here in the Seattle area. 

So here’s a hearty meal to fight that off – a Bolognese sauce prepared in a slow cooker and later baked with sliced polenta and some parmesan.  This is glorious and well worth the time – trust me on this one.

Bolognese Sauce
Makes about 12 cups (3 quarts)

2 T olive oil
2 oz pancetta, chopped
2 small, finely chopped yellow onions
2 finely chopped carrots
1 stalk finely chopped celery
3 lbs ground beef
2 C beef broth
1 1/2 C dry red wine
1 can (28 oz) crushed or diced plum tomatoes
1/2 C milk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fresh Italian leaf parsley, minced for garnish (optional)   

In a large frying pan over medium-high heat, warm the oil.  Add the pancetta and saute until it begins to render its fat, about 1 minute.  Add the onions, carrots and celery and saute until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add the beef and cook, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until it is no longer red, about 7 minutes.

Transfer to the slow cooker.  Add the broth and wine to the pan and raise the heat to high.  Bring to a boil and deglaze the pan, stirring to scrape up the browned bits on the pan bottom.  Pour the liquid into the slow cooker along with the tomatoes and stir to combine.

Cover and cook the sauce on the high heat setting for 4 hours, or the low heat setting for 8 hours.  Add the milk, stirring to combine.  Cover and continue cooking for 20 minutes longer.  Season with salt and pepper.

…now, how do you use this sauce?  Toss it with some fettucine and sprinkle in fresh-grated Parmesan cheese. 

Or try it with Polenta:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Butter a gratin baking dish (I actually just use a 9 x 13 glass casserole).  Take a tube of prepared Polenta (18 oz) and slice it crosswise into slices about 1/4″ thick.  Arrange the slices in the bottom of the baking dish, overlapping them.  Spoon the Bolognese sauce around the slices generously and sprinkle a 1/2 cup of fresh-grated Parmesan cheese.  Bake until the sauce is hot and bubbly, about 20 minutes.  Served with minced fresh Italian parsley for garnish.

Fivenineteen’s notes:  I added a small ‘blob’ of minced garlic for a little extra punch when sauteeing the onions, carrots and celery.  Guessing about 2 or 3 teaspoons.  I just spontaneously grabbed a small caviar-type spoon, scooped up some garlic and threw it into the pan. Love that aroma! Most of you who tune in regularly know I prefer minced garlic in a jar as it’s so much more convenient than peeling/pressing fresh garlic.  AND you won’t notice a difference – promise.

I also recommend adding the crushed tomatoes to the slow cooker BEFORE pouring in the broth and red wine mixture.  It will save you a lot of potential stains and splashes on your countertops and on yourself.  You can also reduce the amount of red wine and broth slightly – maybe a quarter cup total.  I boiled the mixture for quite a few minutes to reduce it down before adding to the slow cooker but there still is a fair amount of liquid remaining even after the slow cooking is finished. 

The flavors are incredible…enjoy!

From the Williams-Sonoma Food Made Fast Slow Cooker Recipes book.