Thursday, February 10, 2011

Quick Bolognese Sauce with Polenta Cakes

I sound like a oxymoron, a quick Bolgnese, but after watching Richard Blais of Top Chef prepare a Bolognese in a pressure cooker and I thought...Hmmm...I've never have done that! I must try this! Bolognese traditionally takes HOURS  to cook,  and one Chef described to me that his sauce cooked between 12-14 hours. I don't know about you; but I don't have that amount of time just to make a sauce!  This is a great way to make Bolognese, and from now on I will only ever use a pressure cooker to make this ...Thank you Chef Blais! 

You can watch Richard on his CNN segment here, along with his recipe:

For those that have never had or made a Bolognese, words simply can not do it justice. It is so much more than a red sauce with meat; the complexity of flavors are sublime. There are as many recipes for Bolognese as there are Italian grandmothers. My recipe is based upon several different ones I have come across, and modified to my taste.

The pressure cooker greatly reduced the time needed to develop the complexity of flavors that you would find in a Bolognese Sauce, if you don't own a pressure cooker,try doing this in a slow cooker so that it cooks all day to develops the flavors completely.

If you haven't noticed, I have a great love of Polenta. Most of use first think "Pasta" when it comes to Italian cuisine, but Polenta is very traditional in Italy's cuisine, and I would encourage all of you to master is easy and a very nice alternative to pasta. Don't get me wrong, I love pasta, but make this for a loved one or a friend and see the smiles and reactions..."Oh My God" are three words that sound almost as good as those three other magical words we all love to hear...

Ingredients for Bolognese

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 8 slices bacon, minced fine in food processor
  • 1 large onion, minced
  • 3 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 pound ground veal
  • 8 oz  fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 cup of carrots,julienne cut (around 2 carrots)
  • 1 (29 ounce) can fire roasted or Italian style plum tomatoes
  • 6 ounces tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup Pinot Noir
  • 32 oz  Beef stock (I ONLY use Kitchen Basic stocks, I find them superior in taste to any other)
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1-2 teaspoons of Kosher salt
  • pepper to taste

Ingredients for Parmigiano-Reggiano Polenta Cakes
  •  32 oz of Chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup of milk
  • 1/2 cup of half and half
  • 4 Tablespoons of  unsalted butter 
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 3/4 cup of fresh grated  Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1 3/4 cups of yellow corn meal

Direction for Bolognese

   1. In a pressure cooker , add oil and  bacon, cook for 2-3 minutes
   2. Add in ground beef and veal and cook till browned, drain off excess fat.
   3. Add in all herbs, seasonings, and broth, simmer for 5 minutes
   4. Add the wine, remaining vegetables, tomatoes and tomato paste, stir. Seal the pressure cooker.
   5. Cook for 20-30 minutes, Release pressure.
   6. Serve over Polenta cakes

Direction for Polenta
  1. In Large saucepan bring chicken stock to a rolling boil. Add Salt.
  2. Add Milk and half and half
  3. Gradually pour in corn meal
  4. Whisk constantly to avoid clumping, while stirring in butter
  5. Reduce the heat to low and cook until mixture thickens.(10- 15 minutes)
  6. Stir in  Parmigiano-Reggiano
  7. Pour Polenta in a plastic wrap prepared pan (for ease of removal)
  8. Smooth with spatula and place in Refrigerator for 1-2 hours till complete set and cooled (can be made ahead of time)
  9. Cut into rounds and pan fry to light golden brown on each side, 3-4 minutes per side


  1. Love a nice chunky Bolognese. Really nice Post Ken. This definitely an Oh My God dish for me :)

  2. I love that you take the Top Chef recipes and give them a try! Richard is a fave...he's incredible...but I also like Fabio...too bad he had to leave :(

    Polenta and bolognese... that's a 5 star meal!

  3. What a great idea for a quick bolognese! Blais is awesome, hope he wins ( I didn't watch this past Wednesday's episode yet saving it for the weekend.)

  4. This is just too good! Love Bolognese, love polenta, this is a marriage made in heaven!