Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Divalicious Sunday Night Dinners: Spaghetti Bolognese

Now that we've all plunged back into the week, here's a little weekend comfort food for you! I love making hearty, happy dinners on Sunday nights, something to carry us into the week with a full belly and a joyous heart!

Last Sunday, while the Academy Awards droned on in the background, I whipped up my divalicious Spaghetti Bolognese! Nothing says comfort like pasta. Growing up, my mother used to make spaghetti for us kids. My two brothers and I would crowd around her in the kitchen, waiting with watering mouths for her to finish cooking. "Is the spaghetti ready?" we'd chant over and over again. Then, we'd pile on parmesan cheese, wolf down our food, and fight over seconds like it could be our last meal. Even to this day, when my father's had a tough day at work, my mother makes him pasta, the only surefire way, aside from a Red Sox win, to cheer him up! And let's just say, my Mom doesn't have much pull in Boston.

Now, in recent times with the low carb craze, pasta has fallen out of favor in many households. While it's true that a lot of white flour laden noodles will pad your midsection, if prepared using my tips and recipe, this is wonderfully healthy dish! When you combine tomatoes with olive oil, like in pasta sauce, something magical happens, allowing your body to more readily access the cancer-fighting compounds in the tomatoes. Additionally, using a whole wheat pasta adds healthy fiber and vitamins, and keeps your waist slim! I chose a whole grain Vita Spelt Pasta, made from spelt flour instead of wheat flour. For the protein in my sauce, I used an organic, grass-fed ground beef from Whole Foods. It cost less than $4 for my half a pound. Don't eat red meat? You can substitute sausage or ground turkey for the beef. I served my Spaghetti Bolognese with a side of organic steamed broccoli (make sure you get your green veggies!).

Two other tips great tips are to serve proportionately a higher sauce to pasta ratio, keeping the carbs in check, and to use a fine dusting of a high quality parmesan reggiano instead of a ton of icky cheese. In other words, please banish any parm that comes in a can, bright green or otherwise! I highly recommend buying a block of parmesan reggiano and investing in an inexpensive microplane grater (see DD's Amazon Store). I use this cheese for everything from arugula salad to topping soups and frittatas!

While my sauce cooked, I even managed to give my puppy, The Adorable Monster a bath! While the monster raced around the house like a whirling dervish trying to dry off, I finished my dinner and chowed down with Hugh Jackman singing his head off like a crazed opera singer. So even though the Oscars left me feeling unsatisfied on Sunday night, my dinner sure didn't!

Domestic Diva's Spaghetti Bolognese

1 yellow onion chopped
1 carrot peeled and chopped
1 celery rib chopped
1 garlic clove chopped
1/2 lb organic ground beef (can sub sausage or ground turkey)
1 box whole wheat spaghetti
28 oz can tomatoes
bunch of thyme
bay leaf
1/2 cup red wine
2 tbsp olive oil
parmesan reggiano
1 tbsp Italian parsley
salt and pepper

Optional: 1 jalapeno or 1 serrano pepper
seeded and diced (to add some spice)


In a stock pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions, carrot and celery and saute until onion is translucent (about 8 minutes). Then, add the garlic and pepper, stirring for one more minute.

Add the beef and stir around, breaking it up into small pieces.

Continue cooking until the beef is cooked through! Please note that grass fed beef will cook faster than regular beef due to it's lower fat content.

Add the wine, and turn the heat up, simmering until it reduces (about 4 minutes). You can buy red cooking wine, or whenever Kuzak and I don't finish a bottle, I stash it in my fridge to use as cooking wine later. Preserved with a vacuum sealer, it can keep for a long time (see my Amazon store for the best wine stopper!).

Meanwhile, in a food processor or a blender (I use my mini chop, also in my Amazon store), puree the tomatoes.

Add the pureed tomatoes to the pan, stirring to combine. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Add the herbs and then cover partially with the top. Cook for at least 40 minutes. Once the sauce is cooked, season to taste with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add noodles and cook, straining when finished and tossing with olive oil.

To serve, put some noodles in the bottom of the plate. Top with a generous portion of sauce. Then, shave parmesan onto the top and sprinkle some chapped parsley. Enjoy!

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