So, I know this is probably the least “summery” recipe I could possibly share with you all, but I have a good reason.
This bolognese is my specialty. I’ve been making it for years now, tweaking and perfecting the recipe juuuuust so to get it where I want it, and now, it’s finally ready to share with you guys.
The reason I’m choosing to share it now, in 90-degree late July, is because my husband has a birthday tomorrow. A BIG birthday (ahem, the big 4-0). And this is one of his favorite meals of all time.
So! I’m making rich, deeply flavored, wear-your-stretchy-pants red wine bolognese in his honor. In hot and humid July.
Plus, I shared a few weeks ago on Instagram stories that I was making this for his Father’s Day dinner (I told you he loves it), and so many of you reached out asking for the recipe. Ask and you shall receive, friends!
So, a little backstory for you. I do not have a drop of Italian blood in my body. I’m all Irish/Scottish/German/Norwegian over here. I don’t have a box of my nonna’s recipes, passed down for generations. I don’t have any secrets. Really, I don’t have a leg to stand on when it comes to authentic Italian or even American Italian food.
But, I do know how to cook. And Italian food is one of the first cuisines I fell in love with while in college. It is the cuisine that made me want to learn how to really cook amazing food.
My college roommates will probably still remember me coming home from classes most days of the week and lounging in front of Food Network, watching “Everyday Italian” with Giada De Laurentiis. For hours on end.
I was fascinated by her approach to food. By her Italian heritage. And I think that was a time in my life where I really YEARNED to cook independently for the first time. If I wasn’t a broke college kid, living in an apartment with a barely functioning stove, I probably would have started right then and there.
Fast forward a couple years to me living on my own, working my first “real” job post-college, and you would find me spending my hard-earned money on ingredients at the grocery store. I would record “Everyday Italian” and watch it religiously after work almost every day. I would drool over and marvel over the recipes being shown. It was a constant flow of “I want to make that first” and “Oh no, I want to make THAT first.” I was enamored.
I started cooking for real that first year out of school. I educated myself on all aspects of French and Italian food. I bought cookbooks galore. I subscribed to all the food magazines. I recorded cooking shows on my DVR more than any other type of show. I was in it.
And here we are, roughly 15 years later, and I’m still food obsessed. Still cooking all days of the week, for both professional and personal reasons. And I love every second of it. Oh, and I’m still mildly obsessed with Food Network. Not so much all the competition shows, but the cooking shows? I am all in. Just check my DVR.
When Dan and I met over 13 years ago, I was in full cooking mode. And he was someone who had worked in a lot of fine dining restaurants as a server for YEARS. He knew good food. He had eaten a lot of it by the time we met. He took me out for my first real-deal sushi experience on our first date. My mind was blown and I fell in love with him rather quickly after that. We were on the same page when it came to eating, and as silly as that may sound, it’s important in any relationship! Food grounds us all, unites us. And with Dan, it was like that from the very first date.
So much of our relationship, from day one, has been entrenched in food. Either cooking for each other, or together, or going out to eat and stuffing ourselves with amazing restaurant food. It’s our favorite thing to do.
And since we can’t go out for his birthday this year (something he is immensely disappointed about), I wanted to make a dish in his honor. And I knew this bolognese was a good place to start.
Much to my husband’s glee, this bolognese sauce took a lot of trial and error, and he was the guinea pig for it all. The man loves his meat. And he loves his hearty pastas.
While I do not claim to be “authentic” with this recipe, I will say that this is the method that works for me every time, yielding a rich and fully-flavored tomato meat sauce to slather on your pasta noodles. It begs for sweatpants and a glass (or three) of good red wine. Oh, and a generous grating of good parmesan cheese. Don’t skimp on the cheese.
Like I said, it is quite possibly the last thing you want to make in summer. But if you do, I promise you this: you will love it. That part I can absolutely guarantee. Know why? Because this recipe is made with love. A lot of care has gone into this one, and everyone who has eaten it LOVES it.
Dan, my love, partner, best friend, biggest supporter, and father to my beautiful children, deserves the absolute best on his 40th birthday. And this bolognese is the perfect way to kick things off!
Happy (early) 40th birthday, Hun! I LOVE YOU!
This Red Wine Bolognese is everything you want comfort food to be: rich, deeply flavorful, and best eaten in stretchy-waisted pants! Humble chuck roast is simmered in a delicious red wine and tomato sauce until it is tender and falling apart. This sauce is best served over freshly cooked pasta, with lots of parmesan cheese and fresh herbs over top, and with a big glass of red wine! Pure decadence!
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Kosher salt and pepper
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 2 lbs beef chuck roast, cut into 2-inch pieces
- 1 lb hot or sweet Italian sausage, removed from the casings
- 1 large onion, diced (roughly 1½ cups)
- 6 garlic cloves, minced
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon dried Italian herbs
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional – you can skip if using spicy sausage)
- 2 cups dry red wine (we like a dry but fruit-forward wine for this)
- 3 (28-oz) cans San Marzano plum tomatoes
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- ¼ cup parsley, chopped
- ¼ cup basil, chopped
- Pasta of choice (a long noodle like pappardelle or a tube shape like a large rigatoni are our faves for this type of sauce)
- Freshly grated parmesan cheese
- Additional fresh herbs
- In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat.
- Pat the beef pieces dry with a paper towel and season them liberally with the salt and pepper. For 2 lbs of meat, I use roughly 3 teaspoons of kosher salt and 1 teaspoon of black pepper. It sounds like a lot, but the meat needs it and can take the seasoning!
- Place the flour in a shallow bowl or on a plate and lightly dredge the beef pieces in the flour. You want them lightly coated.
- In batches, add the beef to the hot pot and cook for 2 minutes per side, until a deep brown crust forms on all sides of the beef. This part can take 10-15 minutes. Don’t rush it. The caramelization of the meat early on gives the resulting sauce incredible flavor.
- Remove the browned beef from the pot and set on a plate. Add the sausage to the pot and crumble with a wooden spoon or spatula, cooking until it is browned and crisp in spots.
- Remove the sausage from the pot and place it on the same plate with the beef.
- Reduce the heat to medium-low and add in the onion and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring frequently, for a few minutes or until the onion begins to soften.
- Add in the garlic, dried herbs, and red pepper flakes and cook for a few more minutes.
- Add in the tomato paste and stir it around until it is melted and coating everything else in the pan.
- Increase the heat to medium-high and allow the tomato paste to caramelize a bit on the bottom of the pot.
- Add in the wine, scraping up the brown bits off the bottom of the pan as you pour it in. Keep scraping/stirring until all the brown bits have come off the bottom of the pot.
- Bring the wine to a simmer and then add in the plum tomatoes, bay leaves, sugar, and balsamic vinegar. I like to break the tomatoes up some with my spoon/spatula. They release their juices right into the sauce.
- Bring the mixture to a simmer and then add the beef and sausage back into the pot, along with any juices that may have accumulated on the plate. Add in some more salt and pepper (this is really a “to taste” kind of recipe – add as much or as little as you like).
- Simmer the sauce over low heat for 3-4 hours, partially covered, or until the beef is very tender and falling apart. Shred some of the beef pieces into the sauce and leave some whole – this adds interesting texture.
- Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning as needed. Sometimes it needs a touch more salt, pepper, or even sugar. This will depend on the acidity of the canned tomatoes you use.
- Stir in the fresh herbs right at the end.
Toss cooked pasta with some of the bolognese sauce and garnish liberally with grated parmesan and more fresh herbs. Serve immediately with a glass of red wine.
- Category: pasta
Keywords: red wine bolognese sauce, red wine tomato meat sauce, tomato meat sauce, pasta sauces with meat