Cooktop Cove: Turn simple ingredients into a slow cooker pasta feast that begs to be devoured
Spaghetti Bolognese is one of those recipes that lets you make it your own at nearly every turn. The requirements for an authentic Bolognese are typically only that it be cooked slowly and that it include tomatoes, wine and ground beef (or veal). And it all typically starts with a base of mirepoix — carrots, celery and onion.
To make things even easier for the busy cook, for this recipe you simply toss the ground beef in the slow cooker with all the other ingredients; it will cook as everything else does. This also results in a beef that is more tender and breaks up into very small pieces with almost no clumps.
But the beef is also another opportunity to make the dish your own. You can brown it before mixing it with the other ingredients. Searing the beef beforehand can help bring out the beefy flavor, along with crisping it, which will give the sauce more texture overall. You can also start by frying pancetta or bacon and then draining on paper towels before browning the ground beef in the bacon fat. YUM!
2 pounds (900 g) ground beef
1 large whole onion, finely diced
1 celery stalk, finely diced
1 6-ounce (169 g) can tomato paste
1 1/2 cups (250 g) grated carrots
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup (250 ml) white wine
1/2 cup (120 ml) milk
1/2 cup (120 ml) cream
2 tablespoons (30 ml) Worcestershire
2 tablespoons (30 ml) dried oregano
2 tablespoons (30 ml) dried basil
2 bay leaves, dried
Salt and pepper, to taste
1. Place everything in the slow cooker.
Stir to thoroughly combine all ingredients.
2. Cover and cook on low for 7 hours, or on high for 4 hours.
3. Serve over thick pasta noodles, garnished with Parmesan cheese and chopped fresh basil leaves, if desired.
Pro tip: Use red wine instead of white to give the sauce a deeper flavor, or leave the wine out entirely and substitute with chicken, beef or vegetable broth. You can also leave out the dairy portion altogether, or if you want to cut down the fat content, you can eliminate the cream and increase the milk measurement to 1 full cup.
Make this a one-pot meal by adding the pasta directly to the slow cooker at the end of cooking time. If using dry pasta, add the pasta about half an hour before finishing cooking, along with 1 cup of boiling water. If using fresh pasta, add it when there are 15 to 20 minutes left of cooking time, and use only 1/2 cup of boiling water.
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