Last weekend, after my husband had come home from an exhausting week long work trip, I felt it was the least I could do to cook for him. I’m a good cook, but I consider cooking to be more work than I am usually up for. Cooking typically requires planning, shopping, prepping, and cleaning up; all things that take the time I would rather use doing something else. Jon (my husband), on the other hand, finds the process relaxing.
Since I was not in the mood to plan and shop for a grandiose meal, I took the cheater’s way out by finding two boxes of Trader Joe’s Turkey Bolognese (pronounced bɒləˈnjeɪz) in our freezer. I then searched through the fresh produce I had on hand and chose what would compliment the sauce. I also found a can of good Italian peeled tomatoes.
For sweetness, I chose a large sweet onion (when my husband makes sauce from scratch, he puts more onion in than any of the other veggies… remember, tomatoes are a fruit), 4 skinny carrots, and a red bell pepper (a trick I learned from my paternal grandmother who was an accomplished cook and baker); I chose 2 or 3 stalks of celery for texture and flavor and 4 garlic cloves for flavor. Since carrots are dense, I chopped them more finely than the other vegetables because I wanted them to be soft and well incorporated into the sauce. I knew the other veggies would cook evenly.
*A note about carrots: my carrots had gone a little limp. The flavor was still very good, so I used them. I immersed them in ice water and refrigerated them for a few hours to crisp them up again. I didn’t take the time to fully crisp the carrots that I cooked, but I did fully crisp the carrots that I didn’t use, so we could enjoy them later.
**Remember that your sauce will only be as good as the quality of the individual ingredients you use, so make sure every flavor is up to par and of good quality.
Once the veggies were chopped, I put them in a pot, drizzled olive oil over them and cooked them on medium to medium high heat.
I seasoned them with a bay leaf, kosher salt (to taste), a pinch or two of crushed red peppers and a few grinds of black pepper.
I incorporated the can of Italian peeled tomatoes by chopping them with the wooden spoon and stirring them into the al dente vegetables, letting them simmer together for about 20 minutes. I didn’t have fresh or dried basil. Thankfully, basil was already in the canned tomatoes.
Then I added 2 boxes of Trader Joe’s frozen Turkey Bolognese.
As it thawed, I folded it into the sauce.While the sauce was simmering, I boiled a pot of heavily salted water (think ocean water) and cooked the pasta until it was al dente.
Once the pasta was cooked to perfection, I drained it, saving a small amount of its water. I returned the pasta to the pot in which it was cooked (you can use a warm pasta bowl instead, if you prefer). I added the small amount of water I saved when I drained the pasta, to keep it from getting sticky (be careful not to add too much or your pasta will be watery), then drizzled it with good olive oil.
I added about 3/4 of a cup of bolognese sauce and mixed it into the pasta (my Italian friend Ennio taught me to add a bit of the pasta water and a small amount of sauce to the pasta before topping it with the actual serving of sauce). After that, I plated it, topped it with sauce and sprinkled it with Parmesan. If I had fresh basil, I would have cut it chiffonade style and sprinkled it over the sauce, along with the parmesan and, for me, another pinch of crushed red peppers.
Jon grated a generous amount of Parmigiano Reggiano to serve on top of the sauce.
When Jon makes pasta sauce, he usually uses fresh super ripe tomatoes. I decided to use the tomatoes we had in our salad, since they were not too ripe. The rest of our salad consisted of kale and cucumbers; dressed with good balsamic vinegar, organic cold pressed extra virgin olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper.
Flavorful, balanced and delicious!
Delicious Bolognese Sauce, the Cheater’s Way
Two packages of Trader Joe’s Turkey Bolognese
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 or 2 sweet onions (they don’t have to be sweet onions, onions sweeten as they cook)
2-4 carrots (depending on size and preference)
3 stocks of celery
1 Bell Pepper (any color)
4 cloves of garlic
1-28 oz. can of Peeled tomatoes (I prefer Cento San Marzano)
Fresh basil (or at least use canned tomatoes with added basil), to incorporate
toward the end of cooking the sauce and to sprinkle fresh on top of each serving
crushed red peppers
Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
Pasta of your choosing
Cooking instructions shown above!
*If you don’t have these exact ingredients, get creative and improvise with what you have on hand.
*Sometimes, I use cottage cheese instead of pasta. This is a great option for those who are gluten intolerant.