Small Batch Cooking: Easy Bolognese

by Elizabeth on September 6, 2011 · 5 comments

in cooking for one, pasta, recipes

One of my favorite go-to meals is pasta.  I can whip up a pasta dish in as little time as it takes for the water to come to a boil and the pasta to cook.  But even sometimes that’s too much trouble.  So that’s when I’m always happy to find something delicious in my freezer.  Red sauce, pesto, and meat sauces all freeze really well, so I keep several containers on hand for quick meals.  I’ll be sharing my recipes for basic red sauce and pesto in the coming weeks, but today I’m sharing my new favorite meat sauce, otherwise known as bolognese (say: bol-en-yay-zay).

Some quick tips and tricks for making this (and other) sauces:

  • I use ground turkey in place of ground beef here to keep the fat content down a little.  Feel free to use a variety of lean ground beefs, ground pork, ground lamb, ground turkey, or even ground chicken.  I wouldn’t try ground turkey breast or chicken breast because a) it’s expensive and b) you’ll lose that flavor that helps make this dish taste slow cooked.
  • I buy my crushed tomatoes in 28 oz cans, open it and divide it in half, and then freeze in plastic bags.  It’s rare that I need more than 14 oz of crushed tomatoes to make a small batch of something, so it’s best to open the can and freeze it right from the start.
  • I buy my tomato paste in a tube instead of in a can.  It’s more expensive that way, but it’s WAY easier to use and keep on hand, especially when you only need a few tablespoons here and there.
  • This particular recipe makes two large servings, or three smaller servings, plus a nice size container or sauce for the freezer.  You could use all the sauce by cooking three cups of pasta, or cook one cup of pasta and freeze the rest of the sauce.  Play around with your portions.  You probably don’t eat as much as I do anyway. 🙂  The only thing I wouldn’t recommend is freezing the sauce with the pasta.  Cooked pasta really doesn’t freeze well, so freeze your sauce and then just cook your pasta when you’re ready to eat your sauce.
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Easy Bolognese
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1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 pound lean ground beef or ground turkey
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tablespoon dried oregano
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1/2 cup red wine
14 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
Pinch of nutmeg
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil (or 1 teaspoon dried)
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
2 cups dried pasta (small shells or something of a similar size)

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium high heat.  Cook the meat, breaking it up with a spoon, until it is just barely pink, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic, oregano, and red pepper and cook for another minute.  Deglaze the pan with the red wine and scrape up all the brown bits on the bottom of the pan.

Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, and kosher salt and pepper to taste.  Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and let simmer for 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, bring a pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta.

While the pasta cooks, finish the sauce by adding the nutmeg, basil, cream, and another splash of red wine (optional but tasty!) to the skillet and let it simmer for another 8 to 10 minutes.  The sauce will thicken a little.  Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed.  Stir in the cheese and then put about 1/4 to 1/3 of the sauce into a freezer-safe container.  Allow that portion to cool and then put in the freezer for another meal.

Drain the pasta and toss with the remaining sauce.  Serve with a little extra chopped basil and more parmesan cheese.

-Adapted from Ina Garten’s How Easy is That?

This post is linked to Tasty Tuesday and These Chicks Cooked.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Cate September 7, 2011 at 12:19 pm

THANK YOU for the pronunciation tip! I’ll probably forget anyway, but “bolognese” always confuses me.

Ina Garten is brilliant…I love this recipe. It’s one of the very few meat dishes Simone has actually eaten. Maybe it’s because she loves wine?

Where do you find the tomato paste in a tube?


2 Elizabeth September 7, 2011 at 12:48 pm

The “gn” sound in Italian is a difficult one because the sound doesn’t exist in English. Neither does the “gli” sound which my dad says I still haven’t quite mastered. The pronunciation is the best I could do. 🙂

Simone loves wine? That’s so funny! And I loved this recipe too. It has such deep flavor for something that cooks so quickly.

I found it in the “organic and natural section” of my pasta aisle at Publix. The brand is Amore. I searched high and low for it so I wouldn’t be surprised if not every grocery store carries it. I found it on Amazon though –


3 Cate September 7, 2011 at 1:35 pm

I think she does, judging from her fondness for this recipe! And once Jason let her have a sip from his glass, assuming she’d be disgusted…but she wanted more, and was really mad when he wouldn’t give her any. 🙂

I will look for that tomato paste. I hate buying it in the cans because most recipes only call for a tablespoon or so.


4 Elizabeth September 7, 2011 at 3:50 pm

That is too too funny! I wonder what it is about the taste? Does she like white wine or just red?


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