I had The Kitchen Diaries: A Year in the Kitchen with Nigel Slater on my wishlist for quite some time, and was lucky enough to receive it for Christmas. I just love the way Nigel writes about food, and his simplistic approach to cooking using seasonal, fresh ingredients suited for the time of year and mood.
I decided it would be fun to feature one recipe per month on my blog–a recipe that Nigel also made that same month, or some sort of dish inspired by his year in the kitchen. The book is a diary, after all, so not everything is a recipe so much as a log of what he ate.
Everything Nigel ate in January sounded pretty mouth-watering, but I decided to go with a bolognese to kick off my year with Nigel—well, “a really good bolognese” according to him. I’ve only made bolognese once before (I tend to stick to Greek kima, or meatsauces with less veggies), but I love how comforting dishes like this are. I don’t normally indulge in things like pancetta and cream during the week (nor do I normally make things that have to simmer for two hours on a Monday…), but what the hell. I even bought some fresh pasta to make this even better, since I haven’t made my own pasta yet.
Nigel is right. This is a really good bolognese. The flavor of the wine, tomatoes and bay cook down and marry so well together. The cream at the end makes this even more indulgent, and pairs so well with the nutmeg.
I did lighten it up a tad by using less butter and very lean ground beef. We also got six servings of this instead of four, which means a couple of great lunches for work!
A Really Good (Linguine) Bolognese
Adapted from Nigel Slater
1 Tbsp. butter
1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
3 oz. pancetta, cubed
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 carrot, diced
2 celery ribs, diced
2 large portobello mushroom caps, diced
2 bay leaves
1 lb. ground beef
1 cup crushed tomato
3/4 cup beef broth (and I probably added close to 1/4 cup later after it simmered a bit)
3/4 cup red wine
a nutmeg (I grated about 1/3 of it in)
3/4 cup half and half
Melt the butter and olive oil over medium heat and add the pancetta. Allow the pancetta to cook for 4-5 minutes, without coloring much. Stir the onion and garlic into the pancetta, and then the carrots and celery. Finally, add the mushrooms to the pan and then tuck in the two bay leaves. Cook the mixture for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
Turn the heat up a little and then add the beef . Let it brown (about 3-4 minutes) without moving it. Flip it over, breaking it up some more and let it brown.
Mix in the tomatoes, wine, broth, a few grates of nutmeg (I used about 1/3 of the nutmeg), and salt and pepper. Let it come to a boil and then reduce the heat down so everything barely bubbles. Partially cover the pan, and let it simmer for 1 or 1.5 hours, stirring occasionally and adding more liquid if necessary.
Pour in the half and half and stir. Continue to cook for 20 minutes. Season to taste and serve with your favorite pasta and fresh parmesan.