This is a recipe whose origins trace back to Bologna, in Northern Italy. But one of the reasons Italian food is is so beloved around the world is because it is so incredibly adaptable–and Spaghetti Bolognaise is a great example. You can add what you like, subtract what you don’t, and the result will be something you’ve made your own that still speaks the language of its birth.
This recipe is more of a guideline: I like to make this with ground turkey, but other ground meats (or none at all) would work well, too; in fact, this can easily be made into a vegetarian dish by substituting chopped mushrooms for the meat and adding zucchini or other veggies. Sometimes I discover I don’t have tomato sauce, so I add more tomato paste and wine. Occasionally, I run out of fresh garlic and resort to garlic powder. No matter how much I tweak this recipe, it always turns out well, and for that reason alone it is a true keeper. As a final note, you can easily double this recipe to feed a crowd or to freeze the extra so you can have some on hand for busy weeknight meals.
1 pkg. ground turkey (1-1.25 lb.)
1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, shredded
4 large cloves garlic, crushed
3 bay leaves
1/2-1 tsp. dried basil
1/2 c. red wine (I use Chianti if we have it; if not, I grab whatever is at hand)
1 (14.5-oz.) can petite diced tomatoes
1 (8-oz.) can tomato sauce
1/2 (6-oz.) can tomato paste
1 tsp. sugar (optional–I add it to heighten the flavor of the tomatoes)
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 lb. spaghetti
freshly grated Parmesan cheese (or my favorite, Pecorino Romano)
1. Cook the turkey in a lightly oiled skillet until no longer pink. Remove from the skillet, drain, and set aside in a covered bowl.
2. In a large saucepan, cook the onion and carrots in olive oil over medium heat until onion is soft and beginning to brown at the edges. Add the garlic, bay leaves, and basil, and cook for a couple minutes more.
3. Add turkey to saucepan and stir in 1/4 c. wine. Cook until most of the wine has reduced. Stir in the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, remaining 1/4 c. wine, and sugar (if using). Season with salt and pepper.
4. Reduce heat and let sauce simmer uncovered for about half an hour, stirring periodically. Check seasonings and add more salt, pepper, sugar, or basil as needed. If sauce is too thin, stir in more tomato paste. If sauce is too thick, splash in a bit more wine.
5. Cook spaghetti in a large pot with plenty of lightly salted, boiling water until al dente. Drain, and toss with a small amount of olive oil to keep from sticking.
6. Serve the spaghetti with the Bolognaise sauce and with grated cheese.