The only thing better than having a pot of hearty bolognese sauce bubbling on the stove is having a hearty pot of bolognese sauce bubbling in your slow cooker for eight hours while you sip a glass of wine and catch up on your Bravo.
Bolognese sauce is one of my favorites to make because one batch will go a long way in a lasagna, baked pasta dish or simply over your favorite brand of pasta.
And it’s only right that a classic Italian sauce should pair with a classic Italian pasta.
Barilla® pasta has been a staple in my kitchen for a long time and this week, I learned about Barilla Collezione, an artisanal premium, bronze cut pasta that perfectly holds sauces for a restaurant-quality pasta experience at home.
I’m all about a restaurant-quality anything at home.
Before we talk about why I discovered Barilla Collezione, let’s have a little pasta lesson, shall we? Barilla Collezione is extruded through bronze dies, a process that gives the pasta a rough, porous surface, resulting in a texture similar to homemade pasta that is optimal for sauce cling.
And I’m also all about an optimal sauce cling.
Each Collezione pasta shape is carefully crafted using traditional Italian bronze plates to create authentic Italian pasta with a unique texture, similar to homemade pasta.
I’m not all about making homemade pasta at home on a Tuesday night, I’m just not.
What I did do this Tuesday though, is attend a lunch at Spiaggia, which is easily one of the best restaurants in Chicago for quintessential Italian dining.
The Executive Chef of Spiaggia, Chef Joe Flamm (whom you may know from Top Chef Season 15!) served an exclusive meal on behalf of Barilla Collezione to celebrate the launch of the Laver Cup tennis tournament.
This is probably where I should mention that Roger Federer was at the luncheon, along with two-time Olympic gold medalist and World Cup Alpine skier Mikaela Shiffrin. Both athletes work with the Barilla brand for its Masters of Pasta global campaign, which focuses on the simplicity and gastronomy of pasta.
At Spiaggia, the three-course lunch meal featured a delicious Barilla Collezione Rigatoni Pomodoro recipe made with bright, fresh summer tomatoes.
As sad as it is to admit, bright fresh tomato season is waning here in Chicago and its days might be numbered where you live, too.
Slow-cooker meals, though? We’re just getting started.
If you’re someone who wants home-cooked meals, but you work a demanding full-time job and can’t handle the thought of eating dinner at 9:00 p.m. (which admittedly, Brad and I do all the time), then a slow cooker is your friend.
I have made this sauce overnight — cook after work, music on, glass of wine in hand — and it’s great therapy after a long day because you’ll do lots of chopping.
Put it in the slow-cooker around 10:00 p.m. and set it to low. By the time you wake up your slow-cooker will have dinner ready for you and six of your best friends.
You could make it on a Sunday to freeze for a week, but my favorite use for a bolognese sauce is to cook on Saturday to serve at a dinner party.
Because isn’t gathering with friends over food and wine what pasta is really all about?
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 small yellow onion, minced
- 2 medium carrots, diced
- 2 celery stalks, diced
- ½ cup mushrooms, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 12 ounces lean ground beef
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped (or ½ teaspoon dried thyme)
- 1 teaspoon fresh oregano, chopped (or ½ teaspoon dried oregano)
- 1 cup milk
- 1 cup dry white or red wine
- 1 (28-ounce) crushed tomatoes or whole peeled tomatoes, mashed into small pieces
- In a Dutch oven or large skillet, heat extra virgin olive oil over high heat. Add onion, carrots and celery; cook until slightly softened, stirring frequently for about five minutes. Add the mushrooms, garlic and tomato paste and cook until garlic is fragrant, about one minute.
- Add ground beef and cook, breaking up meat with a spoon until no longer pink, about five minutes. Add salt, pepper, oregano and thyme and stir until combined.
- Add milk and bring sauce to a simmer until liquid is completely absorbed, about five minutes. Add wine and stir, simmering again until liquid is evaporated again, for about 10 minutes. At this point, meat should be nice and browned and sauce should be thickening.
- Meanwhile, place tomatoes in the bowl of a slow cooker. Add the beef mixture to the slow cooker and stir until everything is combined.
- Cover the slow cooker and cook on the low setting for six to eight hours. Sauce will be ready to eat immediately or refrigerate in an air-tight container until you’re ready to reheat on the stovetop and serve.
- When sauce is almost done (or reheating), cook your favorite Barilla Collezione pasta (I’m partial to spaghetti or rigatoni) in a pot of boiling salted water until al dente, according to package instructions; drain.
- Toss pasta with the meat sauce and serve sprinkled with cheese. Leftovers will keep for 3-5 days or can be frozen up to three months in individual portions.
This is a sponsored post written on behalf of Barilla, however, all recipes, opinions, and unrepentant love for orecchiette are my own.