Slow Cooker Rich Meat Sauce

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Okay! So now that it’s starting to get slightly colder, I’m all about comfort food. Anything to distract myself from the chilly days. So besides a nice, cozy, warm bed to look forward to, food is the next thing that will get me through the blues.

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This is all about a rich and creamy meat sauce that has time to marry and do its culinary chemistry thingy that makes it yummy by virtue of cooking it slow and low. I’m all about meaty pasta sauces to go with my pasta. Sure they’re not saucy but whatever they lack is made up with lots and lots of richly flavored meat.

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This is a slight variation of Bolognese. It has the same holy trinity base of diced onions, carrots and celery and tons and tons of meat but this pasta sauce is creamy. A little bit of heavy cream is added at the end to do this. And instead of standing over the stove for hours wishing you were somewhere else, you can pretty much set and forget this once you’ve sauteed it all down on the stove top. Why do we even need to cook it over the stove top to begin with? Well for starters, you want to coax the fat off the beef so you can drain it before transferring it to the slow cooker or it’ll just pool into an oily mess. And for those that want to add some wine to this, you’ll need to evaporate it. Brown, drain, saute, evaporate then dump it in the slow cooker and let it work its magic for six to eight hours. Pour in some heavy cream towards the end, mix and then toss it with your cooked pasta.

It can be any kind of pasta. I like wide and flat ones like pappardelle, linguine or fettucine but you can go for spaghetti or any other kind. The ratio of meat sauce to pasta will look imbalanced but because it’s just a pure meat sauce, it works out. Top it with some shaved Parmesan or regular Parmesan cheese.

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Make sure to add in the heavy cream last. I don’t like cooking dairy in my slow cooker because it tends to curdle even on low heat. Maybe my slow cooker runs a little hot. But just for good measure, add it in last and stir to mix it up. The meat sauce will look like a gigantic lump of ground beef after it’s done cooking. The heavy cream is what will add creaminess and the saucy element to it. Stir to mix until the whiteness of the cream blends in with the meat. If you want it more saucy, just add more heavy cream.

You could serve it two ways. Dish out a plate of pasta and top it with meat sauce, or mix it all together so it’s evenly distributed and people won’t be fighting over getting more meat sauce. One thing that always, always happens with meaty pasta are people (including myself) tend to pile on tons and tons of meat sauce on the bed of pasta thinking it isn’t enough. Then once you’re done eating up all the pasta, there’s tons of meat sauce left on the plate.

The eye will fool you into thinking you need more meat sauce to pasta ratio than you actually do. So the best way to not fall for this is to toss the bulk of it together. Problem solved. No more meat sauce hogging!

Ingredients

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
3 celery hearts, diced
2 lb. ground beef
1 cup white wine (optional)
3 tablespoons tomato paste
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 beef bouillon cubes
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup heavy cream
1 lb. pasta, cooked al dente

Instructions

Over medium high heat, brown the ground beef until cooked. Drain any excess fat and remove beef
Melt butter and pour in olive oil and saute onions, carrots and celery until soft, about 10 minutes
Add meat and stir to combine
Add wine and cook until it evaporates, about 10 minutes
Add tomato paste, nutmeg, beef bouillon cubes and season with salt and pepper to taste
Transfer meat sauce to a slow cooker and cook on low for 6-8 hours
Pour in heavy cream and stir to mix
Toss the sauce with the pasta and dish and serve warm with shaved Parmesan cheese

Notes
Inspired by Williams Sonoma

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