Turkey Bolognese

My kids are picky eaters, really picky eaters. Most days I end up making two different dinners - one for my husband and I, another for my boys. I indulge them in this because I was a picky eater and my mom worked with me. I have vivid memories of going to friends houses and being forced to down spinach that looked like it had been mutilated in boiling water for hours and to this day I am traumatized by that memory. l know my boys' taste buds will develop in time and I choose not to force foods they don't want to eat right now on them. I know that my philosophy is different than some and I don’t think either is right or wrong, it is just what I choose. I have enough battles…

However, there is one caveat to having to make two meals in my home and that is when I make my Bolognese. Everyone loves it, plus as an additional bonus, it is healthy! I generally make mine with turkey and whole wheat spaghetti. I first made this recipe after watching Anne Burrell’s show, “Secrets of a Restaurant Chef” and adapted it to my own tastes. Here it is, I hope your family enjoys it as much as mine does.

Turkey Bolognese

1 large onion or 2 small, cut into 1-inch dice
2 large carrots, cut into 1/2-inch dice
3 ribs celery, cut into 1-inch dice
4 cloves garlic
Extra-virgin olive oil, for the pan
Kosher salt
2 1/2 pounds ground turkey (I use the 7% fat variety)
2 cups tomato paste
2 cups hearty red wine
1 cup beef stock
3 bay leaves
1 bunch thyme, tied in a bundle
1 pound whole-wheat spaghetti
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

In a food processor, puree onion, carrots, celery, and garlic into a coarse paste. In a large pan over medium heat, coat pan with oil. Add the pureed veggies and season with salt. Bring the pan to a medium-high heat and cook until all the water has evaporated and they become nice and brown, stirring frequently, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Add the ground beef and season again with salt. Make sure to brown the turkey. Brown food tastes good. Don't rush this step. Cook another 15 to 20 minutes.

Add the tomato paste and cook until brown about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the red wine and stock. Cook until the liquid has reduced by half, another 4 to 5 minutes. Add water to the pan until the water is about 1 inch above the meat. Toss in the bay leaves and the bundle of thyme and stir to combine everything. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer, stirring occasionally. As the water evaporates you will gradually need to add more, about 2 to 3 cups at a time. Don't be shy about adding water during the cooking process, you can always cook it out. This is a game of reduce and add more water. This is where big rich flavors develop. If you try to add all the water in the beginning you will have boiled meat sauce rather than a rich, thick meaty sauce. Stir and TASTE frequently. Season with salt, if needed (you probably will). Simmer for 3 1/2 to 4 hours.

During the last 30 minutes of cooking, bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat to cook the spaghetti. When the water is at a rolling boil add the spaghetti and cook for 1 minute less than it calls for on the package. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water.

While the pasta is cooking remove 1/2 of the ragu from the pot and reserve. Drain the pasta and add to the pot with the remaining ragu. Stir or toss the pasta to coat with the sauce. Add some of the reserved sauce, if needed, to make it about an even ratio between pasta and sauce. Add the reserved pasta cooking water and cook the pasta and sauce together over a medium heat until the water has reduced. Turn off the heat and give a big sprinkle of Parmigiano and a generous drizzle of the high quality finishing olive oil. Toss or stir vigorously. Divide the pasta and sauce into serving bowls or 1 big pasta bowl. Top with remaining grated Parmigiano. Serve immediately.