Monday, October 26, 2009

Turkey Bolognese

There are those rare days I really wish my hubby liked pasta as much as I do.  But he doesn't.  And for the most part, I'm okay with it.  I decided to try making a really meaty sauce, (since David is a carnivore) and see how it would fare at our dinner table.

The one thing I didn't want to do was make it with ground beef.  I am trying to keep the meals lighter for the time being because I know the holidays are upon us, and I can't guarantee David and I won't have a few pieces of that Halloween candy ;-).  I used 80/10 ground turkey, and a little pancetta, and it worked just fine. 

The  one thing about bolognese is you can't rush it.  I let the pot simmer all afternoon, for 4 hours.  So this isn't something you can't start at 4:00 in the afternoon.  Make sure you put it together in the morning, to allow time for the sauce to reduce until it's really thick.  You'll have to turn the heat on your burner down to the lowest possible setting-- lower than low.  I tried to put mine on "low", but the bolognese started to stick to the bottom of the pot.  So low and slow, okay people?  If you can't get your burner low enough, transfer the pot to a crockpot and set it on low for 6-8 hours. 

Turkey Bolognese

8 slices pancetta, finely diced (can be found at the deli counter)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup finely diced/shredded carrot
1 cup finely diced/shredded celery
1 cup finely diced/shredded onion
2 pounds 80/10 ground turkey
salt and ground black pepper to taste
2 cups whole milk
2 cups red wine (use a decent bottle!)
2  28 ounce cans whole tomatoes packed in juice

In a large Dutch oven, brown the pancetta over medium heat.  You'll want to render out most of the fat, but it doesn't have to be crispy.

Pancetta is cured pork, simillar to bacon, but it's not smoked.  Don't substitute regular bacon for the pancetta, we're not going for that flavor this time.  You should be able to buy it at your deli counter.   

I used my mini food processor to shred the carrots, celery, and onion--this saved me a lot of time chopping.  Be careful and just pulse the vegetables until they are very fine...but not mush!   (When we finish this sauce, you'll see why everything had to be chopped very small). 

In french cooking, this is called a mirepiox, and we'll use it as the flavor base of our sauce.  Add the mirepiox to the pot and cook until softed, but not brown. 

Meanwhile, in a large saute pan over medium low heat, cook the ground turkey, breaking it up into very tiny bits with a wooden spoon.  Don't let the turkey brown, we want it to stay soft, but past the raw stage. 

Add the mostly cooked turkey to the pot, along with any drippings.  Pour in the 2 cups of milk, and bring to a simmer.  Let the milk reduce until it is nearly gone, about 25-30 minutes; you will see just the fat remaining.  Be careful and don't let it burn...the burner will probabaly have to be on its lowest setting (or lower). 

Now pour in the wine (I used a cabernet sauvignon), bring to a simmer and reduce the sauce again until the wine is nearly gone...25-30 minutes.

I know it doesn't look like I used red wine, but I really did :-).  While we're simmering the wine away, let's prep the tomatoes.

Open both cans and use a large slotted spoon to remove the tomatoes (save the juice!).  Used your hands to gently squeeze each tomato-- letting the seeds and juice fall back into the can.  This will keep the tomatoes from squirting out all over you when you're chopping 'em up. 

Now you can dice the tomatoes up very finely.  Use your largest cutting board, preferable with a little trench around the edge so the tomato juice doesn't end up all over the place. 

Here's what the sauce looks like after the wine has reduced. 

Pour in all the tomatoes and the tomato juice. 

Bring back up to a simmer (this is the last time, I promise!).  The pot needs to be at a bare simmer.  There should be a few bubbles that break the surface, but it should not be bubbling all over...or it will reduce too quickly.  Slowly cooking this down (uncovered), will give the sauce, epecially the meat, a melt-in-your-mouth consistency. 

After 2 hours, this is what my pot looked like.  You can see on the sides where the sauce started, and how much it's reduced.  Oh, and you can give this a stir every once in a while.   As long as you keep it at a bare simmer, you shouldn't have to babysit it though. 

Continue to simmer the sauce until all, or nearly all  the liquid has evaporated.  This will take 3-4 hours, depending on your pot and your burner.  When it's finished, season with more salt/pepper to taste. 

Here's where I oopsied when I should have daisied.  I forgot to take a picture of the finished sauce, and only realized it after the dishes where done, and the remaing bolognese was already in the fridge.  So here's the finished sauce in a very nice plastic container :-).  

I  reduced the sauce until just a little liquid remained.  You can reduce it more if you'd like.  My sauce had already simmered for just over 4 hours.  I also wanted to see how the family would like it...hence my decision to leave it a tad kids like it that way. 

Once you're ready to serve, boil up your pasta according to the package directions.  I have tried various types of whole-wheat pasta, and just wasn't completely happy with the texture.  This time, we tried Ronzoni Smart Taste Penne Rigati: 

This a white pasta with added fiber and calcium, but is lower in calories and slightly lower in carbs than traditional pasta.  I really liked it...and the kids did too. 

Back to the serious part...the eatin'!  Serve the pasta with a portion of the bolognese sauce on top, and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese. 

Yum....I could eat this every day...and I did...for 4 days.  There's still one serving left in the fridge..and that's after we ate it over past for 3 nights! 

I should mention here I made a double batch, so if you don't want to make a big pot, cut all the ingredient amounts by half.  This sauce freezes well too, so go ahead and make a double batch, freeze the rest, and save it for later.  Bolognese sauce makes a great base for spaghetti pie or lasagna, by the way. 

Just for's a close up.   Mmmm!  The sauce will be very thick, but it will just melt away in your mouth. 

I  know, you can hardly stand it, right?   

I had to take the kids to their swim lessons the day I made this, so I left the pot on while we were gone.  When we came home, my gracious, the smell that hit us at the door...divine...I'm tellin' ya!  I hope you make this soon...and tell me how you liked it :-).

God bless your table tonight!

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