As I mentioned yesterday, we were fortunate to be gifted with a deer this fall – a doe, to be exact. Which is really nice, since they tend to be much more tender than a buck, even if they are smaller. Butchered much like a lamb or a goat, I was fairly familiar with the cuts we received – well, except the roasts, which were all just marked “deer roast” with no indication of what part of the deer they’ve come from, but that’s part of the fun.
Over the weekend, I decided I wanted to make something quick and simple so I took out some of the ground venison. Spaghetti sounded good, but I’ve become rather bored with it lately, so I decided I’d see what a bolognese sauce was all about.
Bolognese sauce – or ragú alla bolognese – is a meat sauce that typically is served with tagliatelle (long, wide strips of fresh pasta) or to make lasagne alla bolognese. While it does contain some tomato, it’s not a tomato-based sauce like most spaghetti sauces nor does it contain the traditional herbs of basil, thyme and oregano that most Italian tomato sauces do. Instead, it is made with milk or cream (I used coconut milk to make it dairy-free) along with the tomatoes and a mirepoix of diced vegetables, and is simmered until it is quite thick.
Unfortunately, I’d dived right into the preparation before getting to the part about being “simmered until it is quite thick” – which for traditional bolognese, is at least an hour, if not two.
We ate late that night.
Now, having said that, I’ll tell you this was just fantastic; I don’t know why it took me so long to try it. It was rich and creamy and didn’t taste anything like the Italian food that is so common in the U.S. (and that I’m not all that fond of). Quite frankly, I may make it in large batches in the future and freeze it so I’ll always have some on hand, because as far as I’m concerned, this is THE spaghetti sauce from now on. Yes, it was that good. So worth the time it took to cook it.
I served this over spaghetti squash, but it would be great over mashed cauliflower or potatoes, or even a good polenta, if you’re so inclined. Also, traditional bolognese calls for crushed or chopped tomatoes and pancetta, but I used tomato sauce and bacon because that’s what I had on hand; use a good quality brand of crushed tomatoes and the pancetta if you prefer.
If you don’t have the venison, a good, lean ground beef will work just as well, or you can use a combination of ground beef, ground pork and Italian sausage (which is also more traditional).
- 1 tablespoon ghee or olive oil
- 3 ounces thick-cut bacon, diced
- 2 pounds ground venison
- 1 cup finely chopped onion
- 1 cup finely chopped celery
- 1 cup finely chopped carrot
- 4 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 cup dry red wine
- 3/4 cup coconut milk
- 1/4 cup water
- 2 cups tomato sauce
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Heat the ghee or olive oil in a large skillet or enameled Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the diced bacon and cook until crisp; remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Set aside.
- Reduce the heat to medium and add the onion, celery, and carrots to the pan; season very lightly with salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for another minute or so.
- Increase the heat to medium high once more and add the ground venison to the vegetables in the skillet or Dutch oven, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon or spatula. Season lightly with salt once more and return the bacon to the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the venison is browned and cooked through.
- Stir in the wine, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Stir in the coconut milk, water and tomato sauce and bring the mixture just to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered until thickened, anywhere from one to two hours. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve over spaghetti squash or mashed potatoes.
- Nutrition (per serving): 306 calories, 14.3g total fat, 27.6mg cholesterol, 188mg sodium, 535.9mg potassium, 12.2g carbohydrates, 2.3g fiber, 6.3g sugar, 27.7g protein