Meat Lovers Weeknight Bolognese
I’ve been posting tons of healthy recipes lately, so I thought I would change it up a bit and post something that’s a bit more comforting for this time of year. It’s still healthy in my book, but everyone seems to have a different definition of what healthy is. I’m a big believer of balance and intuitive eating. We’re big fans of pasta in this house, because it fills everyone up and there are always leftovers to pack for school lunches. We absolutely love my weeknight Bolognese, which I’ve tweaked over the years to be dairy-free, and no one noticed the change.
I’ve tweaked that version by adding some Italian fennel sausages to the mix and omitting the nutmeg. This meat lovers weeknight bolognese is like having spaghetti and meatballs, but without the hassle of making meatballs. Steve and the kids love this new version, as it just feels a bit heartier after a long day of skiing and fall sports.
This meat lovers weeknight bolognese is the perfect and tastiest bolognese for those busy weeknights, as it takes under 45 minutes start to finish, but the sauce tastes like a sauce that’s been cooking on your stove top all day, not for just 30 minutes. This version is also dairy-free.
This is a great pasta to serve up if you’re entertaining friends because it feeds a crowd, especially if you pair the pasta with some crispy garlic bread and or a caesar salad, kale salad or arugula salad.
Meat Lovers Weeknight Bolognese
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 pound grass fed beef – I typically use 85% lean, as we like the flavor that a little fat brings to the sauce
- 4 Italian sausages (12 ounce package) – casings removed, break up sausages a bit with your fingers – I typically use a brand like this one
- 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse Celtic sea salt, divided, plus more to taste
- 4 teaspoons minced garlic (roughly 5 cloves)
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 1/4 cups dry red wine, divided – Make sure to use a robust and rich wine for this recipe, such as a cabernet, as the wine really brings out the flavors in the sauce
- 1 (28-ounce) BPA free can crushed tomatoes, preferably San Marzano, or a 24-ounce box of San Marzano tomatoes – the 24-ounce box is the same as using the 28-ounce can
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 1 box of favorite traditional pasta, such as bowtie or orecchiette, brown rice pasta or spaghetti squash
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves, lightly packed
Let’s prep the ingredients. Remove sausages from their casings. All you have to do to remove the sausage from it’s casing is to cut a slit down the length of the sausage and then peel it open and remove the sausage. You are going to literally push and tear it out of it’s casing. You might have some casing left on the sausage, but it doesn’t matter. You can always remove the sausages from their casings ahead of time and reserve the sausage in a sealed glass container. I tend to do this earlier in the day, so when it comes time to make dinner, I have one less thing to do.
Mince the garlic cloves, measure out 1 cup of wine, 2 tablespoon tomato paste, spices and salt.
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large (12-inch) skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Add the ground beef, sausages, teaspoon salt, and cook, crumbling the beef and sausages with a wooden spoon, until the meat browns, about 5-7 minutes.
Stir in the minced garlic, red pepper flakes and the dried oregano, making sure to rub the oregano between your fingers to release the oils, cook for 1-2 minutes until fragrant.
Pour 1 cup of the wine into the skillet and stir to scrape up any browned bits.
Add the can or box of tomatoes, 2 tablespoons tomato paste, and 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper, stirring until combined.
Bring the sauce to a boil. Once the sauce comes to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 10 minutes.
While the sauce simmers, rinse and chop the basil, measure out 1/4 cup of red wine.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of pasta to a boil, add the pasta and cook according to the directions on the box.
Let’s finish off the sauce.
Add 1/4 cup chopped basil, and the remaining 1/4 cup wine to the sauce and simmer for 10 more minutes, stirring occasionally until thickened.
Be sure to taste the sauce and add more salt and a bit of wine to taste. I always add about 1/2 teaspoon more salt to the sauce, but this is all to individual taste.
When the pasta is finished cooking, drain it and pour it into either a large serving bowl, or the same pan that you cooked the pasta in.
Add the sauce to the pasta and toss well to coat.
Serve the pasta up into individual bowls and top each with some fresh parmesan and basil.
Note: If I have more time, I let the sauce simmer on ultra-low for an hour or so after the above steps, as the flavors meld and the sauce thickens a bit.
Got leftovers: You can re-heat the pasta in a heavy-duty pan. Just add a splash or two of water, give the pasta a stir, set the heat to med-low, cover and let the pasta warm up. The water will evaporate, but will create moisture/steam for the pasta so it doesn’t dry out while re-heating. Make sure to give the pasta a stir every so often, so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.
Since I’ve been staying away from gluten, I’ve been serving this sauce up over spaghetti squash for Steve and I and regular pasta for the kiddos. I just keep the sauce in the pan, and then everyone tops it over their carb of choice.
Love the idea of this pasta, but don’t want sausage, then try my weeknight bolognese – dairy-free.
Another one of our go-to pastas is my kale, spinach and pesto pasta.