An Italian Feast: Spaghetti Bolognese, Roasted Asparagus with Poached Egg, and Garlic Bread

I didn’t know what “bolognese” was until fairly recently. Sure, I had heard the term plenty of times, but I never knew “bolognese” was just a fancy name for a meat-based sauce for pasta. Turns out, I had spaghetti bolognese quite often as a kid. Well, kind of. It was more like, “let me open this jar of Ragu over some pasta so I can say I cooked you kids some dinner.” Not a big difference, right?

Usually, I don’t go for recipes that involve me slaving in the kitchen for hours at a time. Sure, I like a bit of a challenge, but I don’t want a backache to overshadow the victory of my latest kitchen adventure. When I came across Anne Burrell’s Pasta Bolognese recipe, the first thing I noticed was the four and a half hours of cooking time. Despite that craziness, I still went forward with making it. Hey, at least I could say I’ve made bolognese sauce from scratch. And, because the idea of cooking a meat sauce for almost five hours wasn’t daunting enough, I decided on a side of roasted asparagus with poached egg, and garlic bread. From scratch. Oh, and did I mention I had never made Italian bread before?

Spaghetti Bolognese

Tweaked from Anne Burrell


1 large onion, cut into 1-inch dice
2 large carrots, cut into 1/2-inch dice
3 ribs celery, cut into 1-inch dice
4 cloves garlic
extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
3 pounds ground chuck
1 28-ounce can whole San Marzano tomatoes, crushed by hand
3 cups red wine
3 bay leaves
1 bunch thyme, tied in a bundle
1 pound spaghetti
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese (you can certainly use Parmigiano Reggiano, if preferred)

In a food processor, puree onion, carrots, celery, and garlic into a coarse paste. In a large pan over medium heat, coat pan with oil. Add the pureed vegetables and season with salt. Cook the vegetables until all the water has evaporated and they become nice and brown, stirring frequently, about 15 to 20 minutes. Have some patience! Add the ground beef and season again generously with salt and pepper. Brown the beef and let cook about 15 to 20 minutes.

Add the crushed tomatoes and tomato paste and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the red wine. Cook until the wine has reduced by half, about 10 to 15 minutes.

Add water to the pan until the water is about 1 inch above the meat. Toss in the bay leaves and the bundle of thyme and stir to combine everything. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Simmer for 3 1/2 to 4 hours. If your sauce reduces too much, add some water. Don’t be afraid to add water, you can always cook it out. As your sauce simmers, be sure to taste it and season it accordingly.

During the last 30 minutes of cooking, bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat to cook the spaghetti. Remember to salt the water! When the water is at a rolling boil add the spaghetti and cook for 1 minute less than it calls for on the package. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water.

While the pasta is cooking remove 1/2 of the meat sauce from the pot and set aside.

Drain the pasta and add to the pot with the remaining meat sauce. Stir the pasta to coat with the sauce. Add the reserved pasta cooking water and cook the pasta and sauce together over a medium heat until the water has reduced. Turn off the heat grate some Pecorino Romano over the entire pot of pasta. Toss vigorously. Serve the pasta and top each dish with some more Pecorino Romano. Serve immediately.

Roasted Asparagus with Poached Egg

Adapted from Anne Burrell


What You’ll Need:

3 tablespoons white vinegar
12 spears asparagus
Extra-virgin olive oil
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Fill a large saucepan two-thirds of the way with water. Add the white vinegar and bring to a boil.

Holding the tip and stem of each asparagus spear, snap the asparagus where it will naturally break. Discard the ends. Toss the asparagus with some olive oil and sprinkle some salt over them. Place the asparagus in the oven and roast for 15 minutes.

Reduce the heat on the water until the bubbles in the water have subsided. Gently crack and drop the eggs into the water. Cook the eggs for 3 to 4 minutes. When done, the whites will be cooked through and the yolks will be warm but still liquid. Using a slotted spoon, carefully remove the eggs from the saucepan and blot the bottom of the spoon on a paper towel before plating the egg. Remove the asparagus from the oven. Divide the roasted asparagus spears on plates and top each set of asparagus with a poached egg. Sprinkle with the grated Parmigiano and a bit of pepper. Serve with some soft Italian bread, to sop up the yolk.

Italian Bread (to later transform into Garlic Bread)

What You’ll Need:

4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 1/3 cups warm water (90 to 110 degrees F)
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
1 package (2 ½ teaspoons) active dry yeast
1 egg
1 tablespoon water
2 tablespoons cornmeal

Place the water and yeast into the bowl of an electric mixer and allow the yeast to bloom for about 5 minutes. Add the flour and sugar to the water and mix until a dough begins to form. Drizzle the oil and salt into the dough and continue to mix for about 8 to 10 minutes, or until a smooth, firm dough is formed. Wrap the bowl in plastic wrap and let the dough sit until doubled in size, about an hour and a half.

Deflate the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Form dough into two loaves. Place the loaves on a cutting board generously sprinkled with cornmeal. Cover the loaves with a damp cloth and let rise, until doubled in volume about 40 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

In a small bowl, beat together egg and 1 tablespoon water. Brush the risen loaves with the egg mixture. Make a single long, quick cut down the center of the loaves with a sharp knife. Gently shake the cutting board to make sure that the loaves are not sticking. If they stick, use a spatula or pastry knife to loosen. Slide the loaves onto a baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes. Once the bread cool enough for you to handle, feel free to turn this into some garlic bread…

Garlic Bread

What You’ll Need:

Italian Bread (see above)
6 tablespoons room temperature butter
10 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Mozzarella cheese (if desired)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Add the garlic and seasonings to the softened butter and blend well. Slice the bread in half, horizontally. Spread the butter mixture on each half. Sprinkle with cheese, if desired. Place the bread on a baking sheet and bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Enjoy!

After serving up this meal, I feel like I’ve conquered a culinary mountain. Ok, maybe a large hill. Still, this felt greatly rewarding and satisfying. John proclaimed it an “amazing” meal and served himself a second helping. Even Logan, my super-picky three year old, proclaimed that he LOVES mommy’s bread. Not bad, eh?

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