Fall is here. Almost. I’m ready for warm stews and casseroles. Almost. I’m ready to stop eating anything that doesn’t involve a whole can of pumpkin. Getting there. But it’s also still sunny and warm out. I’m still hanging on to the late summer peaches and plums. And does zucchini even have a season in San Diego? Seems like I can get it locally and cheap year-round. Fine by me! So I made this sauce. It’s warm and comforting like I’ve been craving, but I don’t even have to turn on the oven. Because this sauce is made, for the most part, in my crock pot. How about that? Don’t use that thing nearly enough. With my uber-busy new schedule, this recipe is definitely one I’m remembering when it’s Wednesday night and I haven't got much in the way of food for Thursday.
This sauce is a bolognese. It’s got beef (but you could totally use turkey, chicken, or bison if you want to be fancy). It’s got milk and wine, which sounds weird, but actually makes the meat flavor more succulent and delicious. True. Besides the tomatoes, it’s chalked full of other vegetables. Because I’m me, and I up the veg. Always. It all bubbles away all the live long day or night and when it’s done it’s chunky and meaty and savory. I would argue one doesn’t even need to serve this on anything besides a spoon headed for my mouth.
But I didn’t serve it that way. I didn’t serve it over spaghetti either. Or penne. Or bowtie. Not even spaghetti squash, though I’ve done that before and I highly recommend it. I had red potatoes and an idea. I roasted those suckers until they were cooked through. Then I carefully smashed them flat, about ½ inch thick. Then I heated some olive oil in a skillet, and fan fried my roasted/flattened potatoes until they were golden and crispy on the outside and soft and wonderful on the inside. Then I topped those suckers with my bolognese. Then I ate them. Well, the ones Husband would let me get to. Men really are all about steak and potatoes at heart, aren’t they?
But that explains the funky pictures. That and the fact I was photographing my lunch container for the next day. But don’t let the funk fool you. This sauce is just what the don’t-leave-me-late-summer-it’s-almost-fall season calls for.
Fall Vegetable and Beef Bolognese
adapted from The Kitchn
Makes about 8 servings
1 TB olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
1 medium eggplant, chopped
2 medium zucchini, chopped
8 oz cremini mushrooms, finely chopped
5 cloves of garlic, minced
1 lb. ground beef
⅛ tsp nutmeg
a few pinches of kosher salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup milk (I used 2%)
1 cup white wine or dry sherry
2 28 oz. cans of whole peeled tomatoes, drained and finely chopped (juices reserved)
1 cup reserved tomato juices
¼ cup parsley, finely chopped for garnish
- In a large saute pan or pot heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the beef and let it sit, undisturbed for a few minutes until it browns. Flip the beef over and break it into pieces using a wooden spoon or spatula. Once the other side has browned, remove the beef from the pan and set it aside. Lower the heat to medium and add the onion, celery, and carrot with a pinch of salt and cook until the vegetables have softened, about 10 minutes. Add the eggplant, mushrooms, and zucchini, and cook until their water releases and evaporates, another 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds, and then add the nutmeg, black pepper, crushed red pepper, and another pinch of salt. Add the beef back into the pan and any juices that have accumulated, and stir to combine.
- Stir in the milk, bring it to a simmer and cook until the milk has reduced completely and very little liquid remains, about 10 minutes. Stir in the wine and simmer again until reduced completely, about 10 minutes.
- In your slow cooker, add the beef mixture, the chopped tomatoes and one cup of the reserved tomato juices. Stir to combine. Cover and cook on HIGH for 6 hours or LOW for 8 hours.
- In the last hour of cooking, make sure the cooking temperature is set to high and remove the lid to allow any excess liquid to evaporate and reduce the sauce. Stir every 15 minutes or so, until the sauce is chunky.
- Serve over pasta or smashed roasted potatoes, and garnish with chopped parsley and Parmesan cheese.