Thursday, December 31, 2009

Simple Suppers: Bison Ragu with Whole Grain Pasta

Happy New Year's Eve, divas!

I hope it's been a great year for all of you, filled with great food and wine, and all the other things that make life so wonderful.  All year long, I've enjoyed bringing you my recipes, wine articles, health tips, and much more, and I have even more exciting things planned for next year.  So stay tuned!

Right now, I'm down in sunny Florida, hanging with Kuzak's family.  It's a house full of ex-policy debaters (and no less than three current attorneys), so there's no lack of healthy conversation, and that's putting it mildly.  Last night, we ate dinner at home, and The Chicago Foodie made her famous hamburgers, made with caremelized shallots and chorizo sausage, and I whipped up a batch of garlic fries (click here for recipe) and a mixed greens salad with pea tendrils, sunflower sprouts, candied walnuts, dried cherries and goat cheese tossed with a mustard vinaigrette.  It was fabulous, if I do say so myself!

So today, as part of my Simple Suppers series, I'm sharing a staple recipe in my rotation, one that reeks of comfort food, but also packs a healthy punch.  I'm talking about my Bison Ragu with Whole Grain Pasta, of course!  I always keep packages of Lindner Bison's grass fed ground bison in my freezer for just such an occasion. If you're not familiar with buffalo meat, it's a great alternative to beef, with a richer, deeper flavor, if you ask me.  Also, it packs a nutritional punch.  Bison is very lean, low in cholesterol and high in protein, with huge nutrient density.  It has a greater concentration of iron and essential fatty acids than other protein sources.  Finally, because this bison is grass fed, it's packed with omega-3's.

For this simple supper, I cooked the ground bison into this decadent ragu sauce, flavored with red wine and spiked with herbs, and tossed with a whole grain spelt penne, but any whole wheat pasta would work.  Finally, I topped it with a some good quality aged Parmesan Reggiano and chopped flat leaf parsley. 

This is one of my favorite meals to make, and I make it often!  It's great for dinner parties, served family style, or just a night at home alone, because it makes great leftovers, too!  Pair this dish with a healthy salad, and you've got a complete meal.  So give it a shot - I promise you'll love it. 

Bison Ragu with Whole Grain Pasta
Serves 6-8 people

1 lb ground bison
1 package whole grain penne or other whole wheat pasta
1 28 oz. can of tomatoes, pureed
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 cup hearty red wine (I used some leftover syrah)
1 bay leaf
pinch of chili flakes
salt & pepper
herbs, chopped (any combination of thyme, rosemary or sage is great)

for garnishing: 
parmesan reggiano
2 tbsp flat leaf parsley, chopped


To make the ragu sauce, heat the olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat.  Add the onion and carrots and saute until starting to caramelize, about 7 minutes.  Add the garlic and chili flakes and saute for another minute.  Then, add the ground bison and saute until cooked through, stirring to break it into small pieces (about 5 minutes).

Once the ground bison is cooked through, add the red wine and bring to a simmer, allowing it to reduce for about 5 minutes. Then, add the tomatoes, bay leaf and herbs.  Partially cover the pot and allow the sauce to simmer for about 35-40 minutes.  Season to taste with salt & pepper.

Meanwhile, to cook the pasta, bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil.  Add the noodles and cook for about 7 minutes, or until cooked al dente.  Once it's cooked, drain the pasta and rinse with a little cool water to stop from cooking.

To serve, toss the pasta with the sauce.  Either plate individual portions, or serve family style from a large bowl (like in my picture).  Top with the chopped parsley and sprinkle with the parmesan.  Enjoy! 

Businesses Mentioned:

Lindner Bison
Santa Clarita, CA 91321
(661) 254-0200 

Run by the husband and wife team of Kathy and Ken Lindner, Jr., they specialize in bison raised humanely and sustainably.  Their bison are grassfed, free of drugs and hormones.  Bison meat tastes similar to beef, but with what some describe as a fuller, richer flavor.  They can be found selling their grassfed bison at the Hollywood Farmers Market on Sunday.  


Source for Ingredients:

grass fed ground bison from Lindner Bison (Hollywood Farmers Market)

organic onions, organic garlic, organic carrots, organic thyme, organic rosemary from Hollywood Farmers Market

Muir Glen Organic Fire Roasted Tomatoes, chili flakes, organic bay leaf and organic whole grain spelt penne from Whole Foods

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