A good pasta dish is a favorite go-to meal in our home (we don’t substitute squash over here) and a hearty bolognese is excellent comfort food for cozy fall weather. I was inspired to create this upgraded version when I had a bounty of homegrown, late-summer heirloom tomatoes to use up, along with spinach and ground beef in the fridge. When I saw we had pappardelle pasta in the pantry, I knew it would be the perfect carrier for a rich heirloom tomato bolognese.
Initially, I had only wondered what to do with the ground beef and spinach that would be more exciting than my usual fare. A quick Google search led me to this recipe for rotini with ground beef and spinach, which is when I brought the heirloom tomatoes into the picture. The result was more delicious than I had imagined.
The fresh spinach, garden-grown tomatoes and organic ground beef (Costco has quality organic ground beef at a great price) made this meal something special. You can either make it quickly in a half hour or simmer it all afternoon.
Hopefully you can still find a few heirloom tomatoes at the farmer’s market, but it’s still worth a try with the best supermarket tomatoes you can find.
Heirloom Tomato Bolognese with Spinach and Ground Beef
2 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb ground beef (a little more or less is fine)
5 handfuls of fresh spinach, roughly chopped (Or just rip it up as you add it to the pan, like I do)
3 large heirloom tomatoes, roughly chopped (mine were huge and juicy, so use more if yours are smaller)
1 tsp Italian seasoning
2 TBSP Kosher salt
1 package pappardelle or tagliatelle pasta (6 or 8 servings) or even fettuccine if you can’t find those (but try to!)
salt and pepper to taste
red pepper flakes to taste
pecorino romano cheese, grated (Locatelli brand is the best, but Whole Foods has a good one too)
-Warm a large pan with a lid over medium heat (lid off).
-Drizzle olive oil into warm pan.
-When heated (not smoking), sauté onion until translucent. Add minced garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
-Add ground beef to the pan and thoroughly cook until no longer pink.
-Drain grease (I tilt the pan to the side and sop up the grease with a big hunk of paper towels)
-Add spinach and cook until wilted.
-Stir in chopped heirloom tomatoes.
-Sprinkle with Italian seasoning, salt and pepper.
-Cover pan with lid and simmer. Here is where you choose to continue or let simmer for a few hours.
-While sauce is simmering, bring large pot of water to a boil.
-Once water is boiling, salt with a couple tbsp kosher salt.
-Add pasta to water and cook until al dente, about 5-6 minutes. DO NOT OVERCOOK. It is better to undercook it and finish it in the sauce. (Note: Pappardelle is an egg pasta and will cook quickly so pay attention!)
-Strain pappardelle (DO NOT RINSE) and add directly to sauce.
-Sprinkle with red pepper flakes as desired and finish with grated pecorino.
Note: If the sauce seems too watery, you can leave the lid off and simmer for 5-10 minutes or until some liquid evaporates.
I have now enjoyed this pasta dish both with the quick-cook sauce version and after simmering for hours and it is delicious either way, so it’s truly your choice.
This is one of those meals that I think will stick around in our family for awhile. Normally the kids only eat one serving of pasta with sauce, then refill their plates with completely plain pasta. With this one they went back for more, sauce and all.
From my family to yours, enjoy!