my sunday sauce: a bolognese sauce

I used to look for recipes to make that would take just a short time, maybe 20 to 30 minutes, from start to finish. Quick preparation, quick cook time, as few pots as possible – those were my criteria. Well, that plus a glossy magazine photo of the fabulous finished dish.

Of course, those recipe selection criteria existed in the Before I Learned To Cook era. Those were the days when the George Foreman grill reigned supreme, and every meal seemed to be comprised of grilled chicken. Grilled chicken on a salad. Grilled chicken over rice. Grilled chicken over beans and rice. Grilled chicken with steamed broccoli.

We don’t eat a lot of chicken now. I’m sure you understand why.

But this is a different era. My confidence in my ability to cook, though still lacking, is much better than it was. I’ve made dishes and meals that I’m proud of. Heck, I’ve put them on display here. In public! For you to judge!

And you all have been so very kind, by the way. I love you for that.

The point is, I’m no longer intimidated by a recipe that calls for more than 30 minutes, from the first chop of the knife until cooked food is on the plate. In fact, I often crave a lengthy time in the kitchen, wearing my red apron and my flip flops, moving between sink and stove and oven to prepare something amazing (hopefully) for my family to eat. And maybe it’s selfish, but a three or four hour cook time means I’m stuck at home, with nothing to do except stir a pot, flip through a magazine, read a book with Madeline, or catch up on Twitter.

I love this at-home time, with no need to go anywhere – a Stay At Home Day, as my 5 year old son calls it.

This Bolognese sauce provided me with a fantastic Stay At Home Day on Sunday. For close to four hours, I stirred this pot of deliciousness. I began sampling little spoonfuls after the first hour, and with each hour of simmering, the flavors intensified and became more rich and robust. Though not a traditional choice, I served the sauce with bucatini, mostly because I like the slipperiness and smooth roundness of the pasta. Bucatini is a pasta made for slurping. It’s fun for kids, which means that it’s also fun for me. Plus, I love saying bucatini. Boo-ka-teeeeny.

I couldn’t go anywhere on Sunday afternoon, and then I was rewarded with bucatini with Bolognese sauce for dinner. It was pretty much heaven.

bolognese sauce | the merry goumet



Bolognese Sauce

Serve this meat sauce over the pasta of your choice - the classic is tagliatelle, but truthfully, nearly any pasta will work - and with a hefty grating of fresh Parmesan cheese on top.


2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 Vidalia or other sweet onion, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 large carrot, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground pork
3/4 cup whole milk
2 teaspoons Italian herb seasoning
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 cans (26- to 28-ounces each) tomato puree
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper


Heat oil in a Dutch oven or large heavy-bottomed pot on medium heat. Add onion, celery, and carrot, and cook vegetables until soft, about 8-10 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute more, or until garlic is fragrant. Add beef, pork, and a big pinch of salt; cook, stirring with a wooden spoon and breaking up any clumps, until meat is browned and none of it is pink. Add milk and Italian seasoning, and cook, stirring often until the milk has evaporated almost completely, about 10 to 15 minutes. Add white wine; cook, stirring often, until the wine has evaporated, about 10 minutes. Stir in the tomato puree; when the mixture begins to bubble, turn the heat down to low. Simmer for at least 2 hours (and up to 4 if you have the time). Salt and pepper to taste.

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27 Responses to “a personal challenge: potato gnocchi”

  1. Winnie — May 5, 2010 @ 11:18 pm

    Your gnocchi are lovely!

  2. Bibi — May 6, 2010 @ 1:47 am

    They look pretty.

    I never made Gnocchi myself, but I love when my hubs makes them. He’s the Italian the the family and his grandma’s recipe is the best. Too bad he makes them only few times a year.

    Congrats on finishing your first challenge.

  3. Julia — May 6, 2010 @ 5:04 am

    I married Pete based on a really good gnocchi recipe. The summer before I met him, my friend and I traveled to Europe and discovered gnocchi. We ate it everywhere. Then I came back – no gnocchi. (I was not much of a cook). Then I met Pete and he made gnocchi for me and all of my friends. I had no idea that he was using this delicious soft potato pasta to break down my guard but it was VERY effective. Now that I thnk about – no gnocchi since. I made giada’s sweet potato gnocci at Thanksgiving – not so great. Need the real stuff. I’ll have to get Pete to make me some. Use the pregnancy to my advantage, much like he used the gnocchi to his.

  4. Sara — May 6, 2010 @ 9:07 am

    Great Recipe! You have inspired me to make Gnocchi at home!

  5. Jennie — May 6, 2010 @ 9:54 am

    You’re too kind, and those gnocchi up there look absolutely lovely.

  6. SMITH BITES — May 6, 2010 @ 10:58 am

    Potatoes . . . happy sigh . . . never met one I didn’t absolutely fall head-over-heels in love with! So proud of you MJ, setting goals and ACHIEVING them – AND that even though being in the kitchen doesn’t come easily, you keep at it!!! These look absolutely lovely!!

  7. Jennifer Hess — May 6, 2010 @ 1:11 pm

    Those are just gorgeous!

  8. merrygourmet
    merrygourmet — May 6, 2010 @ 1:18 pm

    Aw, thanks everyone! It feels good to finally accomplish a long-overdue task, especially when it comes out so tasty. Now I’m geared up to make more pasta!

    Julia – Pete definitely needs to get off his rear (0r off his boat) and make some gnocchi for you. And let me know when, because I’m inviting myself over for dinner.

    Sara – Go for it!

    Jennie – Thanks so much. Seriously, you are my pasta idol.

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  10. Liren — May 6, 2010 @ 2:28 pm

    Wow, what beautiful little gnocchi! I’ve never attempted gnocchi before – always seemed intimidating, but you’ve broken it down so nicely. I’ll have to try one day, it looks like a very gratifying kitchen experience 🙂

  11. JulieD — May 6, 2010 @ 3:50 pm

    I really want to try these now…thanks!

  12. Emily Martin — May 7, 2010 @ 8:51 am

    Wow, I thought I was the only one intimidated by gnocchi.Thanks so much for this post, I’ve been trying to work up the confidence to give them another try and it looks like I’ve found the right recipe!
    Thanks for the step-by-step pics too, VERY helpful.

  13. Peggy — May 7, 2010 @ 10:28 am

    The gnocchi look gorgeous! Job well done!

  14. wendy — May 7, 2010 @ 10:33 am

    Nice fork marks! You may find this hard to believe, but I used to teach 35 seven year olds at a time to make gnocchi when I ran summer camps. I never found out if they tasted good or not because the kids would take them home to cook later. That was the beauty of it, if they tasted bad the parents wouldn’t blame the camp, they’d just say, ‘eh, a 7 year old made it’. Bizarrely, i’m personally afraid of making them like you were. I’ve never actually made them myself!

  15. Karen — May 7, 2010 @ 10:35 am

    These look great! I’m in the same boat you were… kind of intimidated by making gnocci! One of these days I’ll give it a try 🙂

  16. Shirley — May 7, 2010 @ 12:35 pm

    These look pro and you made the Foodbuzz Top 9! Wouldn’t have guessed you were nervous about making them.

  17. Joy — May 7, 2010 @ 3:17 pm

    They look so professional. Last time I tried to make it, it didn’t even resemble a gnocchi.

  18. Janelle — May 7, 2010 @ 4:07 pm

    Well, you my dear, are my gnocchi hero! Beautiful, beautiful… keep on, girlfriend!

  19. I have not taken on a challenge like this yet. Maybe I will. I like your recipe.

  20. Potato gnocchi are also on my list of things to tackle. Thanks for posting this – you make it seem entirely do-able!

  21. Amy @ Ess Eppis — May 9, 2010 @ 3:26 pm

    The first time I made gnocchi was to make them for Passover, so I could not use flour. Using the combo of potato starch & cake meal with the potatoes made them so light and fluffy – like lil pillows of yumminess. Not wanting to mess with success, I now never use flour to make gnocchis.

  22. Susan — May 9, 2010 @ 9:34 pm

    My husband is Italian and the cook of the family. He makes gnocchi with our left over mashed potatoes. They taste delicious and it’s a great way to use up left overs! In the fall he makes pumkin gnocchi in a sage butter sauce. yummy!

  23. Sasha — June 6, 2010 @ 12:49 pm

    Great post.
    Gnocchi is a challenge for me too. I’ve made them a few times but my attempts have been more unsuccessful than not. Maybe it’s because I don’t use a ricer : /
    I’ll keep trying.

  24. Lisa McBrayer — September 2, 2010 @ 3:59 pm

    Gnocchi is a personal challenge that I too want to try. Yours look great! Even better, you said they tasted pretty darn good. You’ve given me inspiration; next week: gnocchi!

    • merrygourmet

      merrygourmet replied: — September 2nd, 2010 @ 4:13 pm

      Lisa – You can do it!

  25. Brenda — September 14, 2010 @ 12:00 pm

    This is something I’ve been wanting to try. I have a number of recipes saved, but haven’t mustered up the courage to give it a go yet. So I’m glad to see you lived through it, and it looks great! I WILL make gnocchi yet!!

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