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Ah, fall. There is a crisp feel to the air. The leaves have shed their leaves for the winter and sweaters have entered wardrobes.
With cooler weather comes the desire to gather indoors with friends and enjoy warm dishes that satiate not only our hunger, but the need for comfort.
When it comes to this fall, I have been thinking of how to have a girls night in that is a little different. Not just the ‘let’s get together and hang out’ plan. But, something with just a little bit of loose structure to it.
Planning a Girls Night In Featuring Bolognese Sauce Over Pasta
When it comes to girls night there are a few staples or things you must have when planning the evening.
*Awesome food on the table.
*Wine for drinking.
*Something with chocolate, because chocolate is a must have at all times.
*A fun activity or conversation starter.
As I said, when the weather gets cool (or downright cold!), the activity needs to be something inside. While I enjoy being low key and fly by the seat of my pants, there is merit to having at least a loose game plan.
Planning a Girls Night In: Book Exchange Party!
When I lived in Maryland, I was part of a monthly book club in our somewhat remote neighborhood. It was a great way to connect with other women. Food, wine and chocolate were all musts for our monthly gatherings.
With the exception of December, we would pick a different book each month to read and then discuss. December was more laid back and was a film we watched together. One year was Sex in the City, the first movie. Let’s just say it took me by surpised as the woman who picked was in her 60s (and I hadn’t hit 40 yet!) But, that could be a whole different post on things about people which surprise you.
Thinking back to those days in Maryland, I thought it would be fun to plan a different kind of book centered party. I love to host a party, but want to have a unique twist when I am able.
Going off the popular book exchange I’ve seen on social media lately, I love the idea of everyone bringing a favorite book to share. Instead of just passing along the book, you would take a few minutes at the party to share WHY it is a favorite book of yours. And, you could then share why you’d recommend it to others.
Given the cooler weather, I thought a Bolognese Sauce served over pasta along with bread and a few other items would make for a lovely evening get together. (I’m already finding additional recipe inspiration for the future, too)
Star of the Table: Bolognese Sauce over Pasta
Now, some people are quite incorrect in their assumption that a Bolognese Sauce is just a tomato sauce with meat added to it. Rather, it is a preparation of love. And, some in my family would correct people by saying it is a meat sauce with a bit of tomato in it.
This is not the dish to make in a hurry. A traditional Bolognese sauce will simmer for hours to allow the flavors to meld in their own special way. Depending upon when you add your vegetables, you can find them melting into the sauce or retaining their shape and flavor. Carrots, celery and onion are must have vegetables. Eggplant or zucchini can be added as well.
Don’t worry…you can take a short cut with a slow cooker by letting it simmer on low for the day, if desired. That way you do not have to watch the stove and make sure the sauce does not start to burn. For this post, I went with the stove top method. But, on a weeknight, I would definitely go for the slow cooker.
Making Bolognese Sauce over Pasta
While you can serve the Bolognese Sauce over many different shapes of pasta, my personal favorite is a penne. This pasta shape works well with the chunks of meat interspersed throughout the bowl.
Barilla is my personal go-to brand for pasta as the finished product is wonderful. If the people of Italy consider it their brand of choice, then I feel like I am in good company. I definitely appreciate the ease of making a fabulous Italian dish with Barilla pasta and can find it at all of my local stores. So glad I could quickly pick up the Barilla Penne Pasta I needed to make this dish at our local store.
One addition to my recipe for Bolognese Sauce is a bit of red wine. I found Clos du Bois Cabernet Sauvignon which is produced in California while embracing the French way of wine making. “Bringing Together the Best of Two Worlds.” They also offer a Chardonnay which I picked up as well.
It is lovely to use in cooking as well as serving a glass alongside the finished dish. My personal preference is to use a wine aerator when you are ready to serve, although you can pour the wine into a glass to allow it to breathe for a while.
The Clos du Bois Cabernet Sauvignon adds a wonderful depth of flavor to the Bolognese Sauce. It is added right after draining excess fat and you allow the meat to simmer in it until the liquid has evaporated. Then, you can add the broth or additional water to create the final sauce.
- 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
- 1 1/3 lb. ground beef
- 2 lb. ground pork
- 1 onion, diced
- 6 to 8 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
- 2 carrots, diced or shredded
- 2 stalks celery, diced
- 2 cans diced tomatoes or about 8 Roma tomatoes diced
- 1/2 to 1 cup red wine
- 1 to 2 Tbsp Italian Seasoning, per preference
- 2 c beef stock
- 2 Tbsp Tomato Paste
- 1 small eggplant, diced
- 2 zucchini, diced
- Coat a large skillet with the olive oil over a medium heat.
- Add the onion, garlic, carrot, celery, and ground meats.
- Cook until the meat is fully browned, stirring often.
- Drain any excess fat from the pan.
- Add the tomatoes and red wine.
- After the liquid from the wine has evaporated, add the beef stock and Italian herbs. If you are adding eggplant or zucchini, this is when I would do it.
- Simmer over a low heat for a minimum of 2 hours. Ideal is 4 to 6 hours.
- Add more broth or water as needed. The tomato paste can be used to help thicken the sauce.
Alternative cooking method:
After the red wine has been added and the liquid has evaporated, transfer everything including the stock and seasonings to a slow cooker. Set on low for 6 hours. As the lid will keep moisture in, you should not have to add extra water.
For beef stock, I used a vegetarian beef stock powder. I add this when adding the Italian seasonings, stirring well before adding water.
An alternative to the diced tomatoes is to use a pasta sauce. Adjust the amount of Italian seasoning as needed if you do this.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 83 Total Fat: 4g Carbohydrates: 8g Protein: 4g
Have you prepared a Bolognese Sauce to serve over pasta?
Do you enjoy having a girl’s night in or another gathering with adult friends?
What type of dinner party would you host?