My boys are reading a book called The Uglies in which a character named Tally goes on a treacherous journey and packs 41 packets of instant Spaghetti Bolognese.
Even though by the end of her trip Tally is sick of it, the Spaghetti Bolognese comes up again and again, causing my boys to clamor every night to eat some, clutching their empty grumbling bellies and crying out for Spaghetti Bolognese.
They have only two questions: “Mom, what is spaghetti Bolognese? And can we eat some RIGHT NOW?”
I didn’t remind them I made it twice last fall—a delicious recipe from Epicurious that everyone liked—but there was nothing to help them remember it. It was eaten, swooned over, and, no sooner than the dish hit the sink, immediately forgotten.
But thanks to this book, The Uglies, it has been an obsession all week.
“Mom, can you make spaghetti Bolognese? Now? PLEASE?”
“Um, ok. Let me look around the kitchen and I’ll let you know.”
Now admittedly, my pantry and fridge are what we can call “well stocked.”
I can whip up a meal with nothing but the scraps in the veggie crisper and some jars in the cabinet, and for company at that. I had the ingredients for a faux Bolognese and my boys didn’t know any better, thanks to short term food memory.
But when it was done, I realized that what I’d made tasted just as good as, and maybe better than, the original, complicated recipe—and I didn’t have to spend 2 hours in the kitchen stirring.
The first thing you should do is open a bottle of wine. Maybe this is how you start cooking every meal anyway. An inexpensive red would do (head to Trader Joe’s), something appropriate for a Thursday no-company sort of night.
You are going to use only a little bit of wine for the recipe, so pour yourself a glass—might as well get this weeknight non-party rolling. Besides, it will make helping with homework a little easier.
Take a sip and you may notice immediately that the kids’ voices seem softer and further away. And by voices I mean whining, crying, screaming, fighting. If this isn’t your household skip ahead to the next paragraph. If it is your house, pour a little more wine—you only need 3 tablespoons for this recipe. By the way, I’m not saying if it is my house or not.
Begin cooking now. Put up a pot of water for the pasta. You can use any kind of long noodle you have. Trader Joe’s has taglietelle, which I love, but feel free to use linguini or spaghetti, and when the water boils, salt the water well.
Once the stress of your day starts to melt away, you will begin to hone in on the smell of the olive oil: green, deep; the onions: sweet, savory; the garlic: buttery, warm; the thyme: earthy, strong. Brown your ground chicken (or any ground meat you’d like), add the luscious tomato sauce (see previous my blog, Getting Sauced), and simmer away.
When this comes together, the sauce simmering simultaneously with the pasta boiling, it will transform your Thursday night supper into something special. So, pour some more wine for you, put out extra grated parm for the kids, and enjoy.
And you never know what treasures your kids’ book hold.
Thursday Night Chicken Bolognese
· 2 tablespoons olive oil
· 1 large onion, chopped
· 4 cloves garlic, sliced
· 3 tablespoons red wine, whatever you like to drink
· 1 teaspoon kosher salt
· 3 cups tomato sauce, homemade or jarred
· Freshly ground black pepper
· ½ teaspoon dried thyme
· 1 pound ground chicken (not lean or ground chicken breast)
· 16 ounces tagliatelle, linguini, or spaghetti
· Grated Romano-Parmesan blend, for sprinkling
1. In a large pan, heat the oil and cook the onion over medium-high heat until tender.
2. Add the garlic and cook while stirring for one minute. Add the wine and cook stirring for 2 minutes. Add the ground chicken and cook until browned while breaking up the chunks of meat with a wooden spoon Add the tomato sauce, salt, pepper, and thyme, simmer for 15 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package directions taking care not to overcook. Drain (it is okay to leave a little pasta cooking water clinging to the noodles), and toss the noodles with the sauce. Serve with grated parmesan-Romano blend or whatever you have handy.