Finding a meal to make for your family for dinner and one that everyone actually looks forward to is hard to come by. I have a family that when I mention pasta for dinner, eyes begin to roll and sighs immediately follow. I’m constantly needing to change up the way I serve pasta or I’m finding myself needing to reinvent it in order to please the masses. It’s a tough job, man. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m an avid cookbook reader and one of the types of cookbooks I like to have on my bookshelf are often the ones with “weeknight” in the title. I came across this recipe in one of my weeknight meals cookbooks and loved the idea of using wide egg noodles called Pappardelle, that we’ve never had before. I first made this dish about three years ago and let’s just say plates were practically licked clean. It has been a family favorite that we put into out weeknight meal rotation to eat at least every three weeks. Success, yay!
The dish consists of a Bolognese sauce, meaning it is prepared with tomato sauce that is flavored with meat. Here, we are using robust Italian tomatoes, lean ground beef and fresh thyme to embellish and add flavor. It’s a fairly quick meal and full of flavor.
Before we get started on the recipe, I wanted add in a quick tip on ingredients for this recipe. The recipe calls for 1 can of whole tomatoes in their juice. The type of tomato you choose for this recipe makes a huge difference. When using whole tomatoes for any sauce, I use San Marzano tomatoes. San Marzano tomatoes are a variety of plum tomatoes, the taste is stronger, sweeter and less acidic than most plum tomatoes. Many chefs consider this type of tomato to be the best plum tomato in the world. One of my favorite quotes by a world renowned chef, Alice Waters is ” When you have the best and tastiest ingredients, you can cook very simply and the food will be extraordinary because it tastes like what it is”. You’ll be seeing this quote again in an upcoming post next week on ingredients. I can’t stress enough though how much this will change the flavor of your dish, elevating it to a whole new level in flavor. But, back to the recipe for now. Read through the recipe and have all of your ingredients measured and ready to go. Preheat a large, non-stick frying pan over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon Olive oil. Finely chop 1 large onion, add to pan and saute until translucent and the onion begins to brown, about 5 minutes.
Increase the heat to medium-high, and add 1 lb of ground beef ( I like to use 93% lean ground beef). Season with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, just until the beef is no longer pink.
Add 1/2 cup cooking wine and boil until it has almost evaporated, about three minutes. If you are hesitant about using cooking wine, don’t be. It lends a nice flavor to this dish and the alcohol cooks out. You can typically replace it with chicken broth, or in this case where the recipe already calls for chicken broth, just increase your chicken broth by the amount the recipe calls for in the wine. Add the can of tomatoes with their juice, broth, cream and nutmeg.
Reduce the heat to medium-low to simmer, breaking up the whole tomatoes and stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened and the flavors are blended, about 20-30 minutes.
At this point you can bring a large pot about three fourths full of salted water to a boil. Add your noodles, stir well and cook until just tender, about 8 minutes. Now, before you think about draining your pasta and rinsing it, let’s have a small lesson instead on why you shouldn’t. The pasta water contains starch. The starch is necessary in helping to coat each strand of pasta so that the sauce will adhere better to your pasta. Draining and rinsing your pasta will take all of the starch off the pasta. Instead, use a handheld strainer to take the pasta out of the water, and add it to your pan with the sauce. Don’t toss the pasta water out yet though, reserve it to add to your pasta dish one Tablespoon at a time, in case the sauce seems too thick. Stir the pasta and the sauce until well combined and let it cook for one minute.
Transfer the pasta with the sauce into a large serving bowl, or alternatively divide it among 6 bowls and sprinkle each with fresh thyme and parmesan cheese and enjoy!