Thursday, May 21, 2015

Bolognese Pasta Bake

A few weeks ago my parents went on a transatlantic cruise which left my brother and me alone while they were on vacation. As is the usual case, I was in charge of all the meals while they were away. For the most part, I tend not to try anything new while my parents are away because a) my brother is sometimes a picky eater and may not like it b) there are less mouths to feed and if my brother doesn't like it I have to eat it all myself which gets tiring.

However when I came across this recipe online I was pretty certain my brother would enjoy it and my instincts served me well. He downright gobbled almost the entire casserole dish on his own, leaving me with just two portions, one immediately after I cooked it and one the next day for lunch. By the time I came home from work the following day, it was all eaten up and I had to come up with something last minute for dinner.

One of the reasons why I suspect my brother liked it so much was because it was simple and had two ingredients he loves: noodles and meat. In fact he said it was practically like lasagna except it didn't require the extra effort of layering everything. Although making the meat sauce was a long process (over two hours for it to simmer and develop a strong flavor) it wasn't actually difficult because it just required occasional stirring. Also I didn't mind because it smelled great and filled the kitchen with a wonderful aroma. When my parents returned from their trip I told them how much my brother enjoyed the dish and my mom requested I make it again so that she may try it too.

Bolognese Pasta Bake

For the Bolognese sauce:
Note: This sauce can be made on its own ahead of time and then combined with the noodles and baked in a casserole dish. Alternatively, the sauce can just be made for regular pasta.
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 2 796 ml cans crushed tomatoes
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • ¼ cup red wine
  • 5-6 fresh basil leaves, torn
  • Handful fresh parsley, roughly chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil
  1. Heat some olive oil over high heat in a large skillet and add the ground beef. Cook until no pink is visible then drain the beef and set aside.
  2. Using the same pan, heat some new olive oil and sauté the chopped onions over medium heat until translucent, about 3-5 minutes. 
  3. Add the garlic and cook for another minute, until fragrant.
  4. Turn the heat up to high and add the red wine. Deglaze the pan by scraping any bits off the bottom.
  5. Once the wine has cooked out, reduce the heat to medium and add the tomatoes. Divide the beef stock evenly between the two empty cans and swish it around to release any chunks left behind then add the stock to the pot.
  6. Add half of the fresh basil and parsley and bring the sauce up to a boil. Once boiling, drop the heat to low and allow it to simmer for about two hours, stirring occasionally.
  7. Once the sauce has thickened considerably, season with salt and pepper and add the remaining basil and parsley.
To assemble:
Note: Any type of pasta can be used for this though I used egg noodles.
  • 1 package egg noodles (about 340 g)
  • 100 g light part skim mozzarella cheese, grated
  • 2 tbsp Parmesan cheese, grated
  1. Cook the pasta according to the package instructions but for half the time recommended for "al dente".
  2. Drain the pasta then add to the pot containing the meat sauce. If the sauce is very thick you may want to add a little of the water from the pasta to thin it out, though I found this unnecessary.
  3. Mix everything well to evenly coat the noodles with sauce then transfer to a large greased casserole dish.
  4. Sprinkle the pasta with the grated cheeses and cover with aluminum foil. Bake for 40 minutes at 375 degrees Fahrenheit then remove the foil and place under the broiler for about five minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and slightly browned. 

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