November 5, 2013 Leave your thoughts
I was a pasta maniac.
Italian restaurant? I’d be ordering penne with red sauce. Chinese restaurant? Chicken lo mein for this girl. Thai restaurant? I’d shovel through at least three-quarters of a bowl of pad thai. French restaurant? I’d hope that boeuf bourguignon would be served over some form of noodle. At home, I’d eat Kraft macaroni and cheese for lunch, and for dinner, I’d request Melissa D’Arabian’s garlic pasta with Parmesan and broccoli. In short, my life basically revolved around pasta.
But now…pasta’s just for special occasions. Sure, it tastes fabulous (and no one will deny that), but it isn’t the healthiest thing in the world for you, even if you buy the gluten-free stuff. (Which is just as bad for you, in my opinion.) While many proudly claim that eating zucchini noodles is “just like pasta,” let’s get real, folks: pasta is pasta, and there is nothing exactly like it. Spiralized vegetables, although they are delicious and a ton of fun to make, will not completely satisfy your pasta craving, and that’s OK! We should appreciate foods for what they are, not what they aren’t. Instead of saying, “Aw, this tomato sauce is good, but it really needs some pasta,” say, “Yum, this tomato sauce is so good, and I’m getting in an extra serving of veggies with these tasty zucchini noodles, too!” It sounds like nothing, but your attitude can really make a difference in how something tastes. I swear.
Personally, my favorite veggie “pasta” is spaghetti squash. It’s a pain in the butt to open up the massive gourd, but once you roast it, it becomes sweet, slightly crunchy noodles that perfectly compliment heartier tomato sauces. Zucchini noodles are also good, but I feel they pair better with a lighter pesto than a sauce as dense as this bolognese. You should be able to find spaghetti squashes at your local supermarket or farmer’s market–they’re in season now–but if you can’t, I’d recommend serving this over parsnip or celery root puree. It sounds a little weird, but I promise it’s delicious!
My recipe for bolognese is adapted from this one, the first recipe my nutritionist friend Alison Held showed me to introduce me to the paleo lifestyle. Since then, it’s become a staple in my house, and I’ve tweaked the recipe to meet my family’s personal tastes. It’s SUPER easy to make, yields a bunch of leftovers, and tastes like heaven on a fork (or spoon). I usually eat this for breakfast the few days after I make this so I won’t waste any.
In a large pot or Dutch Oven, melt 2 tablespoons of ghee, butter, or coconut oil over medium-high heat. Once the oil is glistening, add 2 chopped onions, 3 chopped carrots, and 3 chopped celery stalks, sprinkle with a pinch of salt, then saute until translucent and beginning to soften, about 7 to 8 minutes. It the veggies start browning, turn the heat down and add a little more salt so they’ll release some more water.
To the softened veggies, add 4 cloves of minced garlic, 1 tablespoon of dried oregano, and 1 tablespoon of dried basil, and saute for one or two minutes longer. Then, add in 1/4 lb of sliced and cubed speck (basically smoked proscuitto), proscuitto, or bacon.
I’ve made bolognese with all three of the options above, and speck is by far my favorite. It’s smoky but not overpowering: I’ve found that proscuitto is good but doesn’t have as much flavor, and bacon makes the sauce a bit too greasy and salty. I get speck at my local butcher, but if you can’t find it, definitely use proscuitto over bacon.
After the speck has been hanging out with the veggies for a few minutes, crumble in 1 lb of ground pork and 1 lb of ground veal. You can also substitute regular old beef for the veal, but I prefer the veal’s lighter flavor in contrast with the pork’s porkiness. Saute until the meat is no longer pink, about 5 minutes, then add in 3/4 cup of red wine, 3/4 cup of coconut milk (light or full-fat: your preference), 12 ounces (or about 2 cans) of tomato paste, and 3 bay leaves.
Stir to combine, bring to a boil, and turn the heat down to low. Let cook with the lid on until thickened, about an hour. After the hour mark, reduce the heat to a simmer and let cook until you’re ready to serve.
Want to make some spaghetti squash “noodles” to go along with your delicious sauce? You’re in luck, ’cause I’ll show you!
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Using the biggest knife you can get your hands on, slice your spaghetti squash in half. These are tough little (or not so little) suckers, so proceed with strength and caution. Enlist the help of your father if this proves too arduous.
Sprinkle both halves of the spaghetti squash with a generous amount of salt and pepper, then place face-down on a cookie sheet with about a teaspoon of water. Bake until the squash’s skin is beginning to brown and the flesh is tender, but not mushy, about 45 to 55 minutes. Remove from the oven, flip the squash halves over, and let cool before scraping the squash with a fork to reveal the noodle-y magic inside.
Put some squash in a bowl, top with a generous scoop of sauce, and garnish with some chopped fresh basil. Yummy!
What’s your favorite pasta dish? Leave me a comment here or on Facebook and let me know!