Bolognese a la Caveman

What you will need:

  • 16 large red tomatoes, stems removed (you can substitute with 4-8 cans stewed tomatoes but it just isn’t the same)
  • 2 small yellow onions, chopped
  • ½ cup bell peppers or 4 baby bell peppers, chopped (I will usually by a bag of the baby bell peppers, they typically last for a full week and I can us a couple at a time without cutting a half large pepper and wasting the rest, plus they are great to snack on) 
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 9 baby bella mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, shredded
  • 6 large cloves of garlic, chopped
  • ¼ cup fresh basil (2 tbsp. dried can be substituted)
  • ¼ cup fresh oregano (2 tbsp. dried can be substituted)
  • 1 tbsp. dried oregano for ground beef seasoning
  • 1 lb. ground hamburger meat (80/20)-if you want get creative ground lamb or veal gives a great flavor
  • 4 links hot Italian sausage (you can use mild or sweet if you prefer) – Remove sausage from the casing, and crumble
  • 1 lb.  dry spaghetti
  • Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 1 cup red wine (I typically keep a bottle of cheap red wine in the kitchen, works great as a base for a sauce with steak)
  • Salt and Pepper (I prefer kosher salt, the crystals are larger and helps to stop you from over salting food)
  • Shredded Parmesan Cheese (I typically buy a fresh block and store in airtight container in your fridge and it will last a long time)

**Caveman Tip: I like to make this sauce on a Saturday or Sunday because it leaves me with great leftovers for a lunch and dinner during the week. Not only that but I am able to freeze some of the left over sauce for some quick and easy pasta meals the next week.

Prepare – grill style

Heat the grill to low heat.  We’re staying with propane on this one; it’s just quicker and less messy.  Remove stems from all 16 tomatoes and cut them in half.  Brush with EVOO, salt and pepper.  Once grill is warm, place the halved tomatoes cut side down on well-oiled grill for about 5 minutes or until soft. They should have some char marks but not burnt.   **Caveman Tip: Grilling the tomatoes not only makes them easier to peel for our sauce, but it also gives them that caveman zest!  Removing the skin from the tomatoes helps to reduce the bitter flavor.

When tomatoes are warm, remove them from grill and let cool.   Once the tomatoes are cool, remove the skin.

Prepare the base

In a large stock pan, coat with EVOO and begin to sauté the onions, bell peppers, carrot, garlic, and celery over medium heat.  Add 2 tsp. of salt and 1 tsp. of pepper.  Sauté until almost soft, then go ahead and add the baby bella mushrooms and fresh basil (or dried). Sauté until everything is soft and smelling good.  Remove entire mixture from pan (do not get rid the pan’s leftover goodness!) and put into a large bowl.


Using the same stock pan (with the leftover goodness) add a small amount of EVOO to coat the pan and on medium high heat, add the ground hamburger meat (or veal or lamb). Season the meat with salt, pepper, dried oregano and brown it.  Remove the meat from the pan and place in the same bowl as your sautéed base mixture.  There might be a little liquid in the pan just dump that but don’t scrape it you want all those bits and pieces to carry over to the next process.

Add another thin layer of EVOO to the bottom of the pan and add the crumbled hot Italian sausage, brown it over medium high heat.  You will begin to see goodness on the bottom of the pan…that’s all Bolognese goodness flavors for later!  Once it’s brown remove the sausage from the pan and add it to the bowl containing your other ingredients.

Still on medium heat, pour the red wine into the same pan.  Deglaze the pan.  (Use a metal spatula to scrape all the ‘sausage goodness’ off the bottom of the pan & into the liquid).  Continue to cook until the wine has reduced by half.   (This only takes a few minutes)

While your wine is reducing remove the core from your tomatoes.  (the core is the white tough membrane located in the middle of your tomatoes. I just pull it out with my hands) Then, chop your tomatoes.  **Caveman Tip: I like to use a food processor to chop my tomatoes on a pulse setting for a few seconds.  Though it’s one extra thing to clean, but it saves a big mess for cavewoman to clean up.

Once the wine has reduced, add your chopped tomatoes to the large stock pan.  Combine your (base) vegetable mixture, hamburger, and sausage to the pan.  At this time, go ahead and add your oregano.  Bring mixture to a rolling boil (this is not a fierce boil, but more of a light boil).    Once boiling, reduce heat to medium and simmer stirring occasionally.

At this point, the goal is to let the liquid reduce.  This can take a while….1-2 hours.  I like to keep it over a medium to medium low heat stirring occasionally. You don’t want the solid ingredients to burn on the bottom of the pan; it will result in a bitter flavor to your sauce.   **Caveman Tip:  If you are familiar with my recipes or my style, you know what I’m going to say here…Frequently taste your liquid mixture and make sure you like the flavor.  Just remember this flavor will take a while to start developing.

It will take about an hour for the meat and vegetable flavors to ‘marry’ into the sauce and begin to sweeten it up.  After this point – you can add ingredients as needed for your liking (salt, be careful with the salt as the noodles and parmesan will add salt to the completed dish) pepper, dried oregano or basil depending on your preference. If you like a little sweeter sauce, add a tablespoon of brown sugar or honey but be careful not to add too much because as it cooks for the last hour the sausage, carrots and onions will continue to sweeten the sauce.

If you like more of a tomato flavor in your sauce (after you’ve simmered an hour), feel free to add a tablespoon of tomato paste.  I prefer that fresh flavor, so I steer away from this. Plus – most cavemen like meat – and we are looking for that wonderful essence in a Bolognese sauce.

Continue to simmer mixture up to another hour, tasting occasionally.  If you feel the sauce is too thick, you can add a little vegetable stock to thin it out; but most likely it will need to reduce more.

As your sauce is cooking to consistency, go ahead and get out a pot to boil your spaghetti noodles. **Caveman Tip: Always salt you water when boiling any noodles, it adds great flavor to the noodle. (Taste the water as it gets warm and you should be able to taste the salt.) General rule of thumb is 1 tbsp. per quart of water.

Bring water to boil and add your spaghetti noodles.  Do Not Overcook The Noodles! **See next Caveman Tip.

**Caveman Tip:  Here’s the difference between restaurant quality and subpar.  Taste your noodles.  Pull them from the water while still al-dente. (Al-dente means flexible noodle, but still firm to the taste, it will definitely taste like it needs to cook a little longer)  Place the noodles in a large skillet under medium heat.  Ladle in Bolognese sauce capturing a lot of liquid from your sauce. This will finish cooking the noodles in the sauce while giving them that great flavor. Continue to mix and stir pasta in the mixture until pasta has cooked to desired consistency.

Plate Bolognese and top with shredded parmesan and fresh parsley.  I like to serve it with a small salad or garlic buttered bread.

**Side Note: To make things a little interesting sometimes I like to reheat the sauce with a little added store bought salsa, it gives the dish a little southwest flare to mix things up.




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