Spaghetti Bolognese

There’s something so comforting about Italian food, especially the way it brings family and friends together. Whenever I cook Italian, I try to channel an old Italian grandmother by using this age-old secret ingredient: love. By putting all my love into the food and preparation, a good meal can become a great meal.

Bolognese is a staple of Italian cooking, though I actually had zero experience making a bolognese sauce before this.  I’m all about easy always, so this recipe is right up my alley. Use the freshest ingredients whenever possible (just another way you can add love to the meal), including fresh tomatoes instead of canned ones if they’re in season. To make this recipe even easier, I recommend having a blender on hand to help with the sauce.

Ingredients

-5 large tomatoes, medium or large diced depending on your blender (my favorite, if you have access to them, are early girl organic dry-farmed tomatoes)

-6 basil leaves

-3 whole garlic cloves, plus 2 chopped garlic cloves (keep separate)

-1lb ground beef (grass-fed, organic)

-1 yellow onion, small diced

-1 lb shitake mushrooms, chopped

-2 tablespoons tomato paste

-extra virgin olive oil

-salt, pepper

-crushed red pepper flakes

-spaghetti

 

Instructions

  1. In a blender, add these ingredients in the following order: 1/2 cup olive oil, chopped tomatoes, 3 whole garlic cloves, basil, salt, and pepper.  Blend until it’s a sauce.
  2. In a large skillet, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil or enough to almost cover the bottom of the pan.  Add the chopped meat, carrots, onions, mushrooms, and chopped garlic. Break apart the meat using a wooden spatula or another cooking utensil. Cook for about 5-7 minutes, or until meat is browned and vegetables are soft. Add salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and tomato paste.  Stir in the tomato paste until it becomes dark in color, then pour the sauce from the blender. Let the sauce simmer for some time (could be as long as an hour) to get a really flavorful sauce.
  3. Heat a large pot of salted water and bring to a rapid boil.  Add spaghetti and cook for about 10 minutes until al dente.  Reserve a 1/2 cup of pasta water.  Strain the spaghetti and return to the pot.
  4. Add the reserved pasta water to the skillet.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the temperature to a simmer for a few minutes.  Add the sauce to the pot of spaghetti and stir in to combine.  Plate and garnish with basil leaves. Enjoy!

 

*Some notes about cooking pasta:

– Never add oil to the pot of water or you’ll get sticky pasta.  Add oil after the pasta cooks to keep it from sticking together.

-Always salt the water.

-Reserve pasta water and add to your sauce to allow the sauce to easily mix and stick to the pasta.

Look to Your Farmacy

It’s true, the majority of my money goes toward food.  Delicious, organic, local food.  And you know what?  I’m totally ok with it. Understandably, not everyone wants to spend the money, because organic can be expensive.  Just remember, the more processed crap, toxins, and sugar we consume today, the more doctor visits and money spent on pharmaceutical drugs in the future.  That’s why I look at eating well as an long-term investment in my health, because food is medicine.Let your food be your medicine(1)

Currently, the average American eats too much and spends too little on food.  It can cost a lot to eat organic, but I have some tips on how to best spend your money when buying organic.  Organic food is more expensive because it’s a more time and labor-intensive form of farming. If you’re someone who doesn’t eat organic currently, start by switching at least one thing in your diet to organic, because baby steps are better that no steps. If you’re someone who currently doesn’t eat vegetables or fruits, then maybe starting with canned or frozen vegetables or fruit is the place for you to start.  You don’t need to eat organic all the time to reduce chemical exposure.  Starting a garden, if you have the space, is also a cost-effective way to eat right.

What does it mean to eat organic anyway?  Organic refers to the procedure in which foods are grown, raised, or produced based on government-defined standards.  Originally, all our food was “organic.”  There were no herbicides, pesticides, irradiation, or chemical fertilizers. Rather, all our food was naturally raised, unrefined, unprocessed, and whole. Processing food and chemical farming has only been around since World War II, and since then, our soil has been depleted of important minerals and nutrients that we need.
Because not all of us can or want to buy everything organic, I’ve supplied a list prioritizing which fruits and vegetables to buy organic.  Please refer to the list below for most and least contaminated foods, provided by The Environmental Working Group.image

12 Most Contaminated Fruits and Vegetables:

Apples

Celery

Cherry tomatoes

Cucumbers

Grapes

Hot peppers

Nectarines (Imported)

Peaches

Potatoes

Spinach

Strawberries

Sweet bell peppers

Kale / Collard Greens

Snap peas

15 Least Contaminated Fruits and Vegetables

Asparagus

Avocados

Cabbage

Cantaloupe

Sweet corn

Eggplant

Grapefruit

Kiwi

Mangos

Cauliflower

Onions

Papayas

Pineapples

Sweet peas (frozen)

Sweet potatoes

The two foods that I highly recommend buying organic are strawberries and chicken.  The U.S. uses 1.2 billion pounds of pesticides a year, and only .01% of those pesticides actually reach bugs.  Strawberries, even after washing, retain the most of amount of pesticides.  Pesticides cause issues like skin, eye, and lung irritation, hormone disruption, cancer, brain and nervous system toxicity, blood disorders, nerve disorders, birth defects, and reproduction effects.  If you have children, just remember that kids are four times more sensitive to cancer-causing pesticides in foods than adults (Source: US Environmental Protection Agency).

Vintage arsenic poison bottle on antique shelfThe reason I disapprove so strongly of commercial chicken is that commercial chickens contain arsenic, which is actually approved and regulated by the government.  Arsenic is known to cause cancer, as well as a number of other health issues.

Trust me, you’ll be able to tell the difference in color and taste between organic and commercially-grown produce. Washington State University actually proved through lab taste tests that organic tastes better.  There are more reasons to shop organic though.  By purchasing organic foods, you’re reducing your carbon footprint and helping out local farmers. Our health starts not with food but with our soil and water. Organic farming respects our ecosystem, while conventional farming leaks pesticides into our soil and our water, which in turn makes people sick. Additionally, organic farms are often smaller and independently owned and operated, so it’s great to help out the little guys.  Buying organic saves energy too, since more energy is used to produce synthetic fertilizers for commercially-grown crops.

organic_food

If you’re interested in going organic, but don’t know how or where to start, find your nearest Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) so your can get your food straight from your local farmer.  If you have questions, feel free to ask.  Drop me a line.