Thursday, April 2, 2020

Vacation Bolognese

What a weird and interesting part of history we are living right now. I think it's important to start this post with a huge thank you to our essential workers. Thank you to our nurses, doctors, paramedics, janitors, food industry employees, police officers, fire women & men, truck drivers, UPS & FedEx drivers, nursing home employees, mail men & women, journalists... thank you to everyone who are working their butts off so we can stay home safe.

I would also like to say a big thank you to teachers and educators who are in uncharted territory, but are doing a darn good job. I have seen such wonderful resources online. I am eternally impressed by teachers' creativity and care for their students. As a teacher who has worked at low income school, I have all of those kids on my heart - I hope they are being nourished with love, care and food. And goodness, a big thank you to everyone who is going out of their way to make sure those kids get fed. Thank you to all of you who are contributing to the good.

Now, what is vacation bolognese, you ask? Ha! Good question :) My family actually really loves cooking, so we always make sure we have a kitchen when we're on vacation so that we can do our own cooking. This is such an easy recipe that it doesn't take away from your vacation day at all. It's something that you can pull together in 20 minutes or less and still have a spectacular meal on the table at dinner.

We have a full on bolognese recipe (that we love) but it tastes so long to make. So, even when we aren't on vacation I tend to make vacation bolognese because it's so stinkin' fast and tastes just as great! I am writing this post on Tuesday and I have a pot of vacation bolognese on the stove as I write this post. I put it together in about 20 minutes at lunch time and have just left it on low all day. Easy peasy! Onto the recipe!

I always start by heating some olive oil (or avocado oil) in a large saucepan. Once the oil is hot, add in one diced yellow onion. Let the onion cook until it is translucent. This really isn't the kind of recipe that you need to fuss about - if you don't have a full onion or you hate onion, throw in half an onion or even no onion at all! All of the ingredients in this recipe are super easily substituted or eliminated.
Next, I add in 2 Italian sausages, 1 pound of ground beef, 2 cloves of garlic and about 1 1/2 teaspoons of a Tuscan Spice mix (a mix of oregano, basil and red pepper flakes). I let all of this cook over medium heat until the meat is browned. Again, you can switch any of this out based on your preferences. Think ground turkey or ground chicken instead of ground beef.
While the meat is cooking, I usually take a little survey of what's in my fridge and decide what to add in to the sauce vegetable wise. In this case, I added about two thirds of a bell pepper, 1 carrot and 2 stalks of celery. You can choose to add different veggies or no veggies at all if that's how you role! My grandma shared her sneaky vegetable trick for picky eaters with me years ago - put the vegetables in the food processor before adding them to the sauce so that they just look like sauce. So sneaky but smart, right? I just chop up my vegetables and toss them in the sauce but if you have a picky eater at home, throw the veggies in the food processor before adding them to your sauce!
I let the vegetables cook with the meat for about 5 minutes before adding one jar of marinara sauce. Sometimes, I add a little extra tomato sauce or marinara sauce if my sauce is particularly chunky :) Then, I stir everything together and let it simmer on low for anywhere from 10 minutes to 5 hours! Today, it's been simmering for closer to 5 hours, but either end of that spectrum works.

This recipe also works super well make ahead and stored in the fridge or even in the freezer. Sometimes, I go ahead and make a double batch then keep half in the freezer for another week. This recipe is an especially great on during quarantine, If you have freezer space, I highly recommend keeping a batch or two of this sauce in your freezer.

serves 6

olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
2 mild Italian sausages (with the casing removed)
1 pound ground beef
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons Tuscan spice mix
2-3 vegetables chopped (I recommend, bell pepper, carrot and celery)
1 jar of marinara sauce

1. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add in the diced onion and cook until the onion is translucent.
2. Remove the casing from the 2 Italian sausages. Add the Italian sausage, the ground beef, the minced garlic and the Tuscan spices to the saucepan. Let the meat cook until it is browned. I break up the Italian sausage so that it mixes in with the ground beef.
3. While the meat is cooking, chop up some vegetables. I cut up a mixture of bell peppers, carrots, and celery. You can use any combo of vegetables that you like. Add the vegetables to the saucepan and stir everything together. Let the vegetables cook for about 5 minutes.
4. Add 1 jar of marinara to the saucepan and stir to combine. Sometimes, I add in a little extra marinara sauce or plain tomato sauce. Turn the burner to low and let the sauce simmer for up to 5 hours. Stir the sauce every so often and serve over pasta or spaghetti squash when you are ready to eat.

Bon app├ętit! Stay home & stay healthy :)

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