Big-Batch, All-Day Pasta Bolognese
Basic Tomato Sauce
Finish and Serve
Start by making the Basic Tomato Sauce: Heat oil in a 4-quart saucepan over medium-low heat. Add onion and cook until tender but not brown, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper. Add tomatoes and their juice, crushing the tomatoes with your hands as you drop them in. Bring to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, about 20 minutes. Puree sauce with an immersion blender, or let cool and puree in a blender in batches. Season to taste. Set aside. (This simple homemade tomato sauce is the base for many pasta dishes--including Bolognese!--at The Rieger. It's tasty on its own as well, or on a pizza.)Advertisement
For Bolognese: In a giant (12- to 16-quart) stock pot, heat bacon drippings or oil over medium-high heat. Brown 1 pound of meat at a time, breaking it up with a wooden spoon and spreading it evenly in the pot. Cook meat until it is very brown and crisp. (Most home cooks rush browning. Don't! Deep browning develops the flavor and texture that will be the backbone of the dish.) The meat will stick to the bottom of the pot--that's actually what you want. Just keep scraping it up vigorously with the spoon so that it gets browned all over. Remove meat from pot with a slotted spoon. Repeat until all 8 pounds are browned. Return all meat to the pot.
If you have one, use a food processor to chop all the vegetables. Add onion, celery, carrot and garlic to the meat in the pot. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are very soft, about 15 minutes. Pour in the wine. Cook and stir until wine is reduced by half. Add crushed red pepper, all of the tomato sauce you made, the stock and the umami bomb of your choice. Simmer over low heat for 5 to 6 hours, reducing the Bolognese until thick and saucy. Stir every half hour or so, scraping the bottom to prevent sticking. Season as you go.
When the sauce is thickened and reduced, add sage, rosemary and oregano. Cook for 10 minutes to distribute the flavor. Cool sauce and divide into 3-cup portions to store. Chill for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 3 months.
To Finish and Serve
To serve 4, cook pasta in heavily salted water until just under al dente. Meanwhile, heat sauce in a very large skillet. If sauce is thin, reduce it slightly; if it's too thick, add a small amount of pasta cooking water. Add butter, Parmesan, parsley and a pinch of red pepper, if desired. Add drained pasta; toss to coat. Cook 2 to 3 minutes. Serve piping hot with additional parsley and cheese, if desired. (Note: This last skillet step may seem fussy, but it's critical: The noodles absorb some sauce, and the Pasta Bolognese becomes a unified dish.)
*What's an umami bomb?
Chef Howard Hannah explains: “A Parmesan rind, a chunk of salami, a handful of dried porcini mushrooms or a few anchovies. What all of these have in common is a deep, full savoriness that’s more of a feeling than a flavor. Throw in whatever you have on hand. If you see them later, fish them out. But if they melt away and break down into the sauce, just leave them in.”