Easy Bolognese for Weeknights and School Lunch Leftovers

courtesy of The New York Times

courtesy of The New York Times

Marcella Hazan's recipe for Bolognese sauce was a game changer for me. It's rich, flavorful, and comforting, like an evening with an old friend, and satisfying in every way. But when my youngest child turned out to be allergic to dairy, I knew I had to make some modifications so that we could enjoy this dish as a family.

Over the years, I've made some version of Bolognese at least a hundred times and the truth is, it has changed far beyond Marcella's recipe. I'm not even sure I can still call it Bolognese! But I do. And realistically, for a working mom with three kids, the recipe has evolved to a point where it's easy and fast for me to make as well as delicious and safe for all of us to eat. 

Here's what I love best about Bolognese: my kids eat it hot or cold, and basically beg for it in their lunchboxes as leftovers. 

My kids love cold Bolognese with pasta in their lunchbox! 

My kids love cold Bolognese with pasta in their lunchbox! 

This recipe can have loads of variation (included below) which makes it incredibly approachable. I'm now able to get pasta with Bolognese on the table in 30 minutes or less, and while it's a far cry from Marcella's slow cooked masterpiece, it fits the bill in a pinch. 

Ingredients
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 small cloves of garlic, chopped
2-3 large carrots, chopped (optional)
1 chopped onion (optional) 
1/2 cup chopped celery (optional)
1/2 red bell pepper chopped (optional) 
1.5-2 pounds ground meat (I have used beef, veal, pork and turkey. My preference is beef or pork)
salt and pepper to taste
28 ounce container tomato puree or crushed tomatoes
pinch of ground nutmeg
3-4 tablespoons of fresh basil, chopped
1 pound of pasta
Freshly grated parmesan cheese (optional) 

Method
1. Put the oil in a pot on medium heat and add the garlic and onion (if using). After one minute, add the carrot celery and/or peppers (if using) and cook for about 2 minutes until the veggies are fragrant and evenly coated in oil. 

2. Add the ground meat and break up chunks with a wooden spoon, incorporating the veggies with the meat. Cook on low to medium heat until the meat is no longer raw and season with salt and pepper. 

3. Add the tomato and stir frequently until all ingredients are nicely combined. Add the pinch of nutmeg and stir again. 

4. Add half of the freshly chopped basil, stir and let the sauce simmer for another 15-20 minutes while you make 1 pound of pasta. 

5. Toss with cooked drained pasta and add remaining basil to garnish. 

Enjoy immediately and then enjoy leftovers the next day!