Do you know what’s the favorite dish in Germany? Not sausages, not potatoes and sauerkraut, and even not beer. It’s pasta bolognese. Something in this combo of dough and meat I guess. Well, this combo sprang out of the boarders of Italy and got a grip basically everywhere in the northern hemisphere.
To begin with, it seemed like mission impossible to exactly recreate a perfect bolognese. The one which is based on a good ragout that was cooked for some hours. (Beware, meat images in the link. But also an interesting talk about cooking it at 3:30)
The texture is achieved using dry soy flakes, which were soaked in boiling water, drained and pressed to get all the unwanted soy taste out. The meaty flavor was gained thanks to the mix of vegetables (Jerusalem artichoke and shiitake mushrooms) and spices (allspice and smoked paprika).
To begin you heat a heavy pan or flat iron pot. Add some oil and finely chopped onion and carrot. The flame should be high and the pot should already be hot when you add them. It’s important to let them get scorched, become nice and golden before you touch them and start to stir them in the oil. If you miss that crucial point and do that too early, you miss an entire level of smoky-caramel flavors that will be there all along the way.
Then add Jerusalem artichoke. Not a lot, just to give a hint of its deep, misterious taste. Then it will be time to season it. Freshly cracked pepper, allspice and smoked paprika. No salt yet. Let them open up in the oil and add the last round of veggies – finely chopped mushrooms (I used 80% button mushrooms and 20% fresh shiitake) and a bit of green chili. Just a bit, you don’t want your bolognese to be hot, you just want it to enhance your flavors, give everything a sharper edge. With that you can add the soy flakes, after draining them somewhere else. They will soak all the flavors that are immersed into the oil. Stir constantly.
Next round will be wine. On a large pan you’ll need around 1/4 cup. Just to stop everything from frying and start cooking. While it simmer, mix well and rub the bottom of the pan, to get all the caramelized goodness from the bottom mixed into the sauce. Once that’s done, it’s time for the tomatoes. Red and ripe only, finely diced. If you can’t get them, use canned, good quality Italian tomatoes. Mix well, you’ll have thick, rich sauce. If you want, add a bit of thyme at this point. Add your salt now, a bit of water and cook. Stir every couple of minutes. Add a bit of water, 1/4-1/2 cup every time, if it gets too thick.
Now it’s time to cook the pasta, while the sauce thickens. Boiling water, salt, pasta. Whichever kind that feels right for you to deal with this rich sauce. BTW, instead of tap water, you can add some of the cooking water of the pasta to the sauce. The starch will make it thicker.
When the pasta is ready, and hopefully your sauce is not liquidy and super thick right at the same time, transfer your pasta into the sauce and mix well. Eat right away. You could thank me later.