A staple in the L2C kitchen

Bolognese is a sauce for the people. Far from marinara, brother of ragu, 100% rustica. Pairs perfectly over a bed of buttery noodles, folded into silkened polenta, or alongside a loaf of bastoncino. Bolognese is a beloved essential in Italian cuisine and a part of my culinary heritage.

You will find videos on millions of ways to prepare this classic sauce, all of which require up to 3 hrs of cooking to develop the flavors and textures synonymous with Bolognese. An unexpected bright side to stay-at-home orders across the globe, we’ve finally “got time for that”! But, come on, 3 hrs of cooking is still a ton of work even when time is abundant. So we’re gonna pack all that flavor into just 30-minutes of cook time.

If you are in a pinch and need a quick fix, a swift swap of ingredients can buy you all that extra time back. After lots of trial and error, my at-home experiments led me straight to my favorite ground meat, Bison. Similar in flavor to beef with the tenderness of pork. It can be found at most butcher shops, which is great if you want a specific grind or blend, but I’ve often stocked my fridge with off-the-shelf packs from Costco.

Traditionally, a can of DOP Pomodoro San Marzano tomatoes makes the perfect meat melding agent. This falls into the long-cooking process category. I’ve opted to combine canned chopped SMT’s with imported triple-concentrated tomato paste. You know, the one in the metal tube that gives any tomato-based dish depth? Also, homemade reduced tomato sauce makes an excellent substitute.

Lastly, the trifecta of flavor Chef’s love, the holy trinity of Italy, Soffritto. I’m all about efficiency in the kitchen. Whether you have the knife skills to hand-chop or fine with letting the food processor do the work, both will yield the same result. The goal is to dice each vegetable as small and evenly as possible. The tinier the cut, the faster the cook time, and the sooner you get to dive into a bowl of homemade heaven.

Chef’s Notes

To add milk or not to add milk? This is the most frequently asked question from the L2C community. To your taste, I say. The milk gives creaminess and adds some body to the sauce, but it’s not an absolute necessity. Butter does the job just as well. If you can’t find bison, try a blend of 1:2 pork and beef. You will need to extend your cooking time 20 additional minutes. Use dry, not too bright, white or a soft, light red wine. When processing your vegetables, start with the harder ones, then add the onions, do not over chop or they will release too much moisture. Easily fixed with a quick wring in a tea towel. The right amount of nutmeg is Bryan’s secret to balancing all the flavors.

Print Recipe
A nice change from the classic will speed up cooking times by more than half.
  1. Place oil, one tablespoon of butter and onions in a thick bottomed pot on medium heat. Sweat onions until transparent. Add celery, carrots, continue cooking for 8 mins, stirring often.
  2. Add ground bison, garlic, few pinches of salt and pepper. Using a wooden spoon, lump meat into both parts crumble and larger chunks. Allow bison to slightly brown, but not stuck to the bottom, until no longer red in color. Stir occasionally.
  3. Slowly pour in milk and stirring gently. Add nutmeg and allow to boil for 2-5 mins.
  4. Add wine and cook for an additional 15 mins until some of the wine has evaporated. Add chopped tomatoes and tomato paste. Turn heat to 2nd lowest setting and allow to simmer, uncovered for 20 mins stirring often.
  5. Check consistency throughout cooking and raise or lower the heat based on desired thickness.
  6. Serve over buttered tagliatelle, crusty bread, or polenta.