Recipe: Paleo Bolognese

Sometimes, I want nothing more than to chow down on a massive plate of spaghetti with meatballs – and we’re not talking about gluten-free pasta substitutes with ground chicken meatballs and organic, jarred tomato sauce.  When this craving hits, I want bison meatballs swimming in a red sauce laden with vegetables and ground Certified Angus top sirloin.  I really want the noodles, and I want them to be exactly what I had when I was a little girl – slightly overcooked semolina noodles from a box (After all, it IS comfort food season).  I want this meal to take literally all day to make and I want my mother to make it.  Now.

No sooner does this craving hit do I have a series of realizations:

  1. My mom doesn’t have time to cook all day.
  2. Neither do I.
  3. Noodles – even the dreaded gluten free option – are out due to severe adult-onset gluten intolerance.
  4. Life was way less complicated when I was five.

When I switched over from the S.A.D. (Standard American Diet) earlier this year, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to stick with Paleo because I’d miss my favorite foods too much.  Fortunately, this hasn’t been the case.  With the exception of beer, I’ve been able to find a reasonable substitute for every food I grew up loving.  Frankly, I’m shocked at how quickly my recipe collection has grown and expanded.  This meal was a challenge for me because I have a strong emotional connection to the Spaghetti Bolognese my mom made when I was growing up: it was my favorite meal and served as the centerpiece at my mom’s house for every birthday, good grade report, bad day or excellent performance.  It signaled a job well done and to this day is my ultimate comfort food.  Adapting it to Paleo – and substituting spaghetti squash for noodles in the process – was something I was incredibly reluctant to do. But I did it.  And I’m glad I did.  You will be too.

Paleo Bolognese

Ingredients:
1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 yellow or white onion, finely diced
1 carrot, finely diced
2 celery stalks, finely diced
1/2 c. mushrooms, sliced
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
3-4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
4 ounces pancetta, finely diced
1 lb. of ground beef and pork (I use a half pound of each)
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 c. coconut milk
1 28-oz. can of San Marzano tomatoes, pulsed in blender
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. basil
1 tsp. thyme
Bacon fat or coconut oil
1 medium-sized spaghetti squash

Method:
1. Prepare your “noodles”! Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Cut the spaghetti squash in half and scoop out all the seeds.  Place halves cut side down on a baking sheet and roast for 35-40 minutes (until tender).  When squash is finished, allow to cool before using a fork to scrape out the squash meat.  Place in a bowl and set aside.

2. Heat a saucepan over low heat.  Add the olive oil, onion, carrot, garlic, mushrooms, red bell pepper, and celery and saute until lightly caramelized, about 12 minutes.  Add pancetta, beef, and pork and cook until browned, about 10-15 minutes.  Make sure to break up meat into small pieces!  Drain off most of the fat and stir in 1 tsp. salt.

3. Deglaze the pan with a bit of water, stirring to loosen the browned bits on the bottom of the pan.  Cook for a couple minutes, until water has evaporated.  Add the tomatoes and stir in coconut milk, black pepper, red-pepper flakes, and herbs.  Gently simmer for 40 minutes, or until sauce has reduced and thickened.

4. When sauce has reduced, stir in 1-2 tablespoons of bacon (or other animal) fat and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Spoon sauce over your reserved spaghetti squash noodles to serve.

Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Serves: 6 very hungry people

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