My husband loves spaghetti. I’ll admit I used to cringe every time he asked for it—I’ve consumed an absurd number of bowls of the stuff over my lifetime. My mom served it often because it was the only meal my brother would eat for about five years of his life.
The dining halls at college served spaghetti because it was cheap and could be made in large quantities, and I ate it as a young professional for those same reasons. I was burned out. Until I came across Ina Garten’s recipe for Weeknight Bolognese.
I usually make lasagna for my husband’s birthday, but one year I wasn’t up for the task. I remember telling my friend that I needed a pasta dish that was easy but also felt special. She told me about Ina’s Weeknight Bolognese, and after a quick glance at the recipe, I knew this was the dish.
The recipe is simple (the title says “weeknight” for a reason) but also calls for making the sauce from scratch, which I knew would be a winner. My husband loved it! In fact, he couldn’t stop raving about this new “spaghetti” dish, claiming it was “better than the jarred stuff.” It’s a winner and is now a staple in my roster of recipes.
How To Make Ina Garten’s Weeknight Bolognese
Making a red sauce from scratch can be intimidating, but not when you have Garten helping you along the way. Her recipe starts by browning ground sirloin in a large pot. Garlic, crushed red pepper, and dried oregano are added next, and cook briefly before deglazing the pot with red wine.
A can of crushed tomatoes and a couple of tablespoons of tomato paste are the final additions before everything simmers. Finally, a pound of pasta cooks while you finish the dish with a bit of heavy cream, nutmeg, fresh basil, and Parmesan cheese. It’s as easy as that!
Tips for Making Ina Garten’s Weeknight Bolognese
Ina’s recipe is clear and straightforward, but after making this dish many times, I have a few tips:
- Add vegetables: If you have the time, chop some onion, celery, and carrot to add even more flavor. I usually chop in one small onion, two ribs of celery, and two carrots and sauté them in the oil before browning the meat.
- Cook the wine: In the recipe, the wine simmers with the tomatoes. This can make the dish taste intensely like wine. I prefer to add the wine on its own and cook until it’s almost completely evaporated. You’ll still get the flavor, but it won’t be so in your face.
- Save some pasta water: It’s the trick for every pasta dish! Save about 1/4 cup of the pasta water to add at the end as needed, thickening the sauce.
- Salt as you go: Start with a teaspoon of salt, especially if you plan on using the pasta water for thickening the sauce. I find one tablespoon a bit much. Remember, you can always add salt but you can’t take it out.
- Serve it with salad: Pasta and salad are always a good pairing. I love a big, simple green salad to enjoy alongside this dish to balance out the meal.