Spaghetti Bolognese with Chicken and Pancetta

Panchetta is Italian Bacon, of sorts. Both American Bacon and Italian Pancetta are pork, usually from the pork belly section. Typically both have been cured (while some bacon is sold uncured). Bacon is cured in salt, either in a brine or packed in salt. It is then aged by drying the meat, be it dried in cold air for weeks or even months, or smoked (my favorite kind of bacon). Pancetta can also be cured in simple salt, but seasonings and other aromatics are often added to the curing process to infuse Pancetta with its distinctly Italian flavors. While this recipe can be made using Bacon, depending upon the type of bacon, the flavor will vary.

The second point of conversation needs to be the very concept of Spaghetti Bolognese, a dish not found in Italy. That is not to say Bolognese isn’t Italian – it most certainly is, just not served over a mound of round Spaghetti noodles. Here in America, we equate Italy with Spaghetti as though no other pasta existed. The truth of the matter is that in Italy, Spaghetti noodles are not used in a Bolognese, and for good reason. Spaghetti is round. Tagliatelle is typically the pasta of choice. The long, flat noodles lend themselves beautifully to any sauce. Just as you won’t find Spaghetti Bolognese in Italy, the idea of Spaghetti with Meatballs is a foreign concept. (As is – surprise – Ham and Pineapple Pizza!) There are many dishes that are found in American-Italian restaurants that you won’t find in Italy. That isn’t to say these dishes aren’t delicious, they are. However; American-Italian cuisine isn’t the same as true Italian cuisine.

I am at my very roots, an American home-cook with some heavy Southern influences in the kitchen. While I like my dishes to be as “authentic” as possible when exploring the world through what I cook, there are certain liberties that are sometimes taken. My guys love Spaghetti with just about anything, and so a lot of the my authentic Italian sauces are not generally served over the correlating pasta of choice in Italy. I feeling is, if it is what you like, go for it authentic or otherwise.

For that matter, in Italy you would not find Chicken in a Bolognese, so we are taking all kinds of liberty with this dish. What makes this recipe Bolognese in spirit? It is the use of carrots, celery, tomatoes and cream in a sauce that has been kissed with wine. While Bolognese is usually made with a red meat and incorporates a red wine, since this dish utilizes a milder meat in the sauce, the red wine has been replaced with a fortified white wine to enhance rather than dominate the flavor.

For a “red” sauce that is more in keeping with a true Ragu Bolognese, see my recipes for Classic Ragu Bolognese with Beef, Veal and Pancetta or Fettuccine Bolognese (That’s Inexpensive and Easy to Make).

This wonderful, lighter version of Spaghetti Bolognese was inspired by Kimberly at The Darling Gourmet. Her blog is an absolute delight – an invitation to tour the world through taste. I’ve included a link to her original recipe at the bottom of the page.

Spaghetti Bolognese with Chicken and Pancetta
1 yellow onion, finely diced
1/2 Cup baby carrot, finely diced
1 celery stalk, finely diced
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic, pressed
1 lb ground chicken
1/4 lb Pancetta, chopped
½ cup fortified white wine (such as vermouth)
2 cans (15 oz) crushed Italian tomatoes
1 cup chicken stock
½ teaspoon dried rosemary
¼ teaspoon dried thyme
¼ cup heavy cream
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
Salt and pepper
1 lb spaghetti, cooked al-dente
Italian Parsley, for garnish

Peel and finely dice yellow onion. Set aside in a large bowl. Wash and finely dice baby carrots. Add carrots to the onions and set aside. Wash and finely dice celery stalk. Add celery to the vegetable mixture and set aside.

Peel garlic and set aside until ready to press into the dish.

Over medium-high heat, melt butter with olive oil. Take care not to allow butter to burn. Once the butter has melted and is hot, add the bowl of finely chopped vegetables. Saute the vegetable mixture until softened, about 6 minutes.

Press garlic into the sauteed vegetables and cook another 30 seconds or so until aromatic.

Add ground chicken to the pan, breaking it into small pieces as it cooks. Cook for about 5 minutes or until no pink is remaining.

Add Panchetta and cook for about 2 or 3 more minutes.

Increase the cooking temperature to high, add wine and let everything come to a full boil for about 2 minutes.

Add canned tomatoes with their juices, chicken stock, Rosemary and Thyme. Let sauce return to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer the pot, uncovered, for about an hour, until the sauce has thickened slightly.

Bring a large pot of water to a full, rapid boil. Add a pinch of salt to the water to increase boiling temperature.

Add pasta to the boiling water. Cook according to package directions, stirring the pasta to prevent sticking as it cooks.

While the pasta is cooking, add the cream, Parmesan cheese and basil to the sauce. Gently stir well to incorporate the creamy textures and fresh herbs to the sauce. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.

To serve: Drain pasta (but do not rinse), shaking off any excess moisture. Empty pasta into a large, rimmed serving platter or large bowl. In another large bowl, empty sauce. Incorporate pasta with sauce at the table, served family-style. Garnish plates with a little parsley for some added color.

NOTE: As with most pasta sauces, this will intensify in flavor with age. The sauce can be made up to two days before serving to let all the flavors marry. Simply warm the sauce gently as the pasta cooks.

original recipe:

Simple Man’s Smokin’ Spaghetti with Beer

It’s interesting how one thought or memory will lead to another. Yesterday, I posted a recipe for Fried Ravioli – a recreation of a dish served at a Brewery we once frequented. The brewery got me to thinking about beer. Beer got me to thinking about a friend from eons ago – Nancy. Sadly we have lost touch over the years, but I still remember her fondly.

Nancy (and her family) were starkly different from anyone I had known before. I grew up in a typical middle-class family of the fifties and sixties. Dad worked, Mom stayed home. It was the same in every home in our neighborhood. Moms were Moms – that was their job. They raised the children, were active members of the PTA and planned the social events with fellow moms over coffee. Social events were backyard barbecues, picnics in the park or school related functions. Everything was simple. Life had no drama or complication. Dads went off to work, Moms packed the lunches and set us off to school. She was there waiting when we came home and made sure we had homework done before the family sat down at the end of the day for our evening meal.

The only exception was my friend, Susie. While she lived in the same sprawling neighborhood, she was an only child (a very rare thing back then). Susie’s mom worked outside the home – another rare family dynamic. While the rest of us were greeted by Mom and homemade cookies, she came home to an empty house. Her parents were alcoholics. At the end of the day, they drank their dinner while Susie opened a can of Spaghetti or made herself a TV dinner. (Looking back now, I think there were a lot more “functioning alcoholics” than we realized. Just take a look at popular television shows –Bewitched for example. Have a small problem, have a Martini. Have a bigger problem? Make it a double). What separated Susie from the other children of secret alcoholic parents in our neighborhood was that she took care of them rather than the other way around. Susie didn’t have many friends, and I was one of the few that had actually been inside her house. Having parents that passed out while watching Walter Cronkite wasn’t exactly socially acceptable. As Susie and I became better friends, she came to our house rather than go home. We did our homework together, and she enjoyed home-cooked meals for the first time in her life.

Along came Middle School (Junior High as we knew it). There was only one Middle School in our little neck of the woods. The school became the melting pot – kids of different social and economical backgrounds funneled in from all around. Suddenly we were exposed to kids that had childhoods vastly different from our own. I had never known families that didn’t have a Dad in the house, or people who didn’t live in a one-family home or those who didn’t live in a house at all. Some lived in apartments, others in trailer parks and even a few that lived in shacks – with none of the conveniences most of us take for granted, like indoor plumbing.

Nancy lived in a trailer with her mom and an uncle (although I got the feeling he really wasn’t an uncle).  At any given time, there were other people living in this tiny single-wide trailer – drifters, those down on their luck, anyone needing a roof over their heads for whatever reason. Nancy’s mom took everyone in no questions asked – and I admired that quality in her. Their trailer wasn’t in a park – it was on a hunk of land. No grass, no yard to play in – just dirt and weeds and a corral for the horses. (In my book, horses bet out a backyard any day. It was at Nancy’s house that I learned how to saddle up and ride like a real cowboy). Although the family didn’t have much, they shared everything and asked for nothing in return. While they appeared to be little rough around the edges, these were good people.

I remember the first time I had dinner at Nancy’s house. Her “Uncle” made a big pot of spaghetti. To the pot of sauce he added beer. It was wonderful – the yeast and hops and malts brought a whole range of flavors to what would have otherwise been a simple red sauce with ground meat.  Over the years, I’ve tweaked the recipe just a little while maintaining its original simple roots. The addition of chopped onions and bacon bits were not a part of that first meal. And my Parmesan Cheese doesn’t come in the little green can. It’s been a while since I’ve made Spaghetti with Beer. Indulging in this simple yet delicious supper is long overdue!

Smokin’ Spaghetti with Beer
1 Small Onion, chopped
1 lb Ground Beef
2 Strips of Bacon
1 Jar Spaghetti Sauce
2 Teaspoons Garlic Powder
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
1 Can Beer
1 lb Spaghetti Pasta
1/2 Cup Parsley, chopped
1/2 Cup Finely Grated Parmesan Cheese
Parsley Sprigs for Garnish

Peel and dice one small onion. Set aside until ready to use.

In a large skillet (cast iron works best) over medium-high heat brown ground beef, breaking it into pieces as it cooks. Drain well and set aside.

Fry up bacon in the now empty skillet. When crisp, remove the bacon and set aside, leaving the rendered fats in the skillet.

Dump diced onions into the skillet and cook in the bacon renderings. Stir often and continue to cook until onions become almost translucent.

Return beef to the pan, mixing well with the onions. Crumble bacon into the mixture and give it another stir.

Add spaghetti sauce, seasonings and beer. Bring to a boil.

Reduce heat, cover and let simmer for about 30 minutes.

While sauce is simmering, bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Add Spaghetti Pasta and cook al dente.

While the pasta cooks, chop the parsley and set aside.

Drain pasta. Mound pasta onto individual plates. Ladle sauce over pasta.

Just before serving, sprinkle spaghetti with chopped parsley and top with a little Parmesan Cheese.

Garnish each plate with a sprig of parsley and serve.

Florence and Spaghetti Carbonara 1

For the next several days, I hope to share a few of my favorite Northern Italian dishes. Hubby, Kiddo and I are vacationing in Florence (on the Oregon Coast) and it has me thinking about another Florence – in Italy.

One of my favorite Spaghetti dishes is Carbonara. So much so that I have several recipes. Hence the title of this post Spaghetti Carbonara 1. This is by far the easiest and least expensive of my recipes, using thick slices of good old American Bacon rather than the more traditional, more expensive pancetta.

One word of warning – while the egg yolks are “cooked” by the heat of the bacon drippings and hot pasta, this might not be the best dish for young children or the elderly due to food sensitivity.

Spaghetti Carbonara 1
1 Lb Spaghetti Noodles
6 Bacon Strips, diced.
4 Egg Yolks
1 Cup Parmesan Cheese, freshly grated
½ Teaspoon Kosher Salt
¼ Teaspoon Black Pepper
½ Cup Fresh Italian Parsley (flat-leaf parsley), chopped

In a large pot, bring salted water to a full boil. (Remember, pasta loves to dance about – so make sure you give your pasta plenty of “dancing” room).

While water comes to a boil, chop parsley and make ready Parmesan cheese. Freshly grated Parmesan works best. (Note: Shredded and grated are not the same thing – grated cheeses are much smaller and blend easily into a sauce. A microplane cheese grater is the best tool for the job). Set the parsley and Parmesan cheese aside in small bowls until ready to use. The Parmesan Cheese will integrate best if at room temperature. DO NOT use Parmesan Cheese straight from the refrigerator.

Use clean kitchen scissors to cut bacon into pieces. Set aside until ready to fry.

When the water has come to a full boil, add pasta and cook al dente according to package directions, about 10 minutes. While the pasta is boiling, cook up the bacon.

In a large skillet, fry chopped bacon until crisp, about 10 minutes. Transfer bacon to paper towel to drain using a slotted spoon. Reserve the drippings and keep warm.

In a large bowl, whisk egg yolks. While whisking constantly, add 2 tablespoons of the bacon drippings to the yolks. Add half of the Parmesan cheese to the egg yolks,

Working quickly, add drained pasta to egg mixture while the pasta is still steaming hot. Toss quickly to coat pasta with egg and cheese mixture. Add salt, pepper, bacon and toss again. Add remaining Parmesan Cheese for one final toss. Garnish with parsley and serve at once.

Tips: Try to time the bacon and pasta so that the drippings are warm and ready when the pasta is drained. If not, simple sip the wine and keep drippings warm until pasta is finished. This is easiest when working with a partner who knows your rhythm

Crock Pot Spaghetti – Family Style

Recently while putting together our menu planner and subsequent shopping list, I asked Hubby what he wanted. While I had most of the coming week planned out, there were a couple of holes that needed to be filled. Wednesday in  particular was an issue. September is a busy month in the Party and Event Business, which always seems to equate to two things – getting home later than usual and not much in the mood for starting dinner. Crock Pot to the rescue!

Hubby pointed out that we haven’t had spaghetti – plain old fashion, simple spaghetti – in a while. Cooking spaghetti in a crock pot is nothing new. So imagine my surprise when I discovered that I didn’t have a recipe for Crock Pot Spaghetti. Now mind you, I’m not suggesting that I cannot make a pot of spaghetti without a recipe to guide me. However; I like yumprint for creating a shopping list. It’s simple – you just drop your recipe from one of your saved cookbooks into the groceries and bam – there’s your list. Besides, I wasn’t the one who would be doing the cooking. Kiddo isn’t working at the moment, so a lot of the cooking has fallen back on him. He doesn’t need much in the way of a recipe, either. Like me, a recipe is sort of a “guide of suggestions”, not carved in stone. I’d be willing to bet he will add his own spin on the recipe below. I left him with a basic list of instructions and one request – take pictures.

My dad is a great one for making Crock Pot Spaghetti. He will let it simmer until there is very little sauce and a ton of meat. Dad is also extremely heavy-handed with the salt. I never seem to get my spaghetti sauce salty enough for Pops. Another thing Dad insists upon is keeping the spaghetti sauce and the spaghetti noodles separate, mixing the two on his plate. It’s one of the reasons he does not like to order spaghetti in a restaurant. I don’t care one way or the other. When feeding a crowd, it’s easier to mix. Serving family style, it’s just as easy to combine as it is to serve separately. When it comes to left-overs (when there are any), we’ll mix it all together in a gallon zip-lock bag and toss it in the fridge for later.

Growing up, Mom made a great spaghetti sauce. She cooked hers up in a cast iron skillet, over low heat and tended to it all day.

Crock Pot Spaghettie – Family Style
2 lbs ground beef
1 onion, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 Jar Spaghetti Sauce, any kind
1 can Tomatoes, Italian Style
1/2 tablespoon roasted garlic
Salt & Pepper to Taste
1/4 Cup Red Wine
1 lb Spaghetti Noodles

Heat olive oil in a cast iron skillet. Cook chopped onions until soft, about 5 minutes. Add ground beef and cook until browned, breaking meat up as it cooks.

Drain meat well. Place into crock pot. Pour spaghetti sauce over meat. Mix in roasted garlic, Italian Tomatoes and wine. Stir to blend.

Cover and cook on LOW 8 hours. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta al dente. Make sure the water is at a full, rapid boil and well-salted before adding your noodles. Stir often and maintain a nice, dancing boil to prevent pasta from sticking together. Also, the sooner the sauce is mixed with the pasta, the better. If you have enough sauce, add some to the pasta immediately after draining. It will make serving the pasta easier.

Place pasta on plates, top with spaghetti sauce and serve.


Spaghetti with a Meat Sauce and Meat Balls

Hubby loves Spaghetti with Meat Balls – it’s one of his favorite ways to eat Spaghetti. I love Spaghetti with Italian Sausage in the tomato-based sauce. Kiddo isn’t particular – he loves Spaghetti any way you serve it. Hum, wonder what would happen if I made the sauce my way, rich in tomatoes with Italian sausage and invited meat balls to the mix . . .

The results are a double-delicious sauce with meaty goodness in every bite. Hubby was happy. I was happy and Kiddo, he’s always happy.

Spaghetti with a Meat Sauce and Meat Balls
1 Lb Mild Italian Sausage
1 Bag Frozen Italian Meat Balls
1 Tablespoon Roasted Garlic (from a jar)
2 Tablespoons Italian Seasoning
1/2 Teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes (optional)
1 Can (14.5) Oz Fire Roasted Tomatoes with Garlic
1 Jar Favorite Pasta Sauce
¼-½ Cup Red Wine
1 lb Spaghetti Pasta, cooked al dente

In a large skillet, cook Italian Sausage over medium heat, breaking sausage up into small pieces as it browns. Once meat has cooked through, drain well.

Spaghetti Meat Sauce with Meat Bals (1)

In a stock pot with a tight-fitting lid, pour spaghetti sauce and Fire Roasted Tomatoes. Stir to blend. Add garlic, and seasonings. Pour wine into the now empty jar of pasta sauce. Secure with jar lid and stir, swirl to gather all the remaining sauce into the wine. Pour into stock pot. Bring to a full boil, and add Italian sausage. Stir to incorporate. Add meat balls to the pot. Return to a rolling boil.

Cover pot with lid, reduce heat to medium low and simmer for about 30 minutes.

While sauce simmers, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt water, add spaghetti noodles and cook al dente, stirring pot as needed to prevent noodles from sticking together.

Drain pasta. Place colander with pasta over a pot of hot water to keep warm. Dish up pasta, top with meat ball sauce and enjoy!

Spaghetti Meat Sauce with Meat Bals (5)

Spaghetti with a Meaty Ragù

Recently, Kiddo was given a strange gift – a small bottle of imported Italian Balsamic Vinegar. I say strange because Balsamic Vinegar is not a typical gift to give a twenty-year-old guy. Kiddo in turn gave the bottle to me.

Image result for images of focaccia breadSmart guy. Kiddo knew I would see the bottle and begin planning one of his favorite kind of meals – something Italian – something with pasta, a rich meat sauce and warm focaccia bread. (The bread I like to use best when not making from scratch is an unadorned sea salt focaccia from a nearby bakery. I brush the top with a little olive oil and fresh or dried herbs just before warming it in the oven). Kiddo loves any kind of bread dipped in a good Balsamic Vinegar. Last night we enjoyed a wonderful pasta dinner, with warm Focaccia dipped in a blend of olive oil and imported Balsamic Vinegar.

While the recipe below calls for a pound of Spaghetti noodles, the Meaty Ragù sauce can stand up well to just about any type of pasta – especially shells or tubular pastas.

Spaghetti with Meaty Ragù
1 Lb Mild Italian Sausage
2-3 Garlic Cloves, chopped
3-4 Springs Fresh Thyme, leaves only
6-8 Fresh Basil Leaves, chopped or torn
2 teaspoons Fresh Oregano, chopped or torn
1 Can (14.5) Oz Fire Roasted Tomatoes with Garlic
2 Jars Fire-Roasted Tomato Pasta Sauce
¼-½ Cup Red Wine
1 lb Spaghetti Pasta, cooked al dente

Finely chop or tear fresh herbs and set aside. Mince garlic and set aside until ready to use. In a lightly oiled large CAST IRON skillet, crumble Italian Sausage over medium heat. Cook meat, breaking up into small pieces as it browns. Once meat has cooked through, drain well and return to skillet.

Add herbs, garlic, fire-roasted tomatoes, pasta sauce and wine. Bring to a full boil, lower heat and allow to simmer until ready to serve.

The longer the sauce simmers, the more intense the flavors. For best results, sauce should be allowed to simmer for a minimum of 1 hour for flavors to mature and sauce to thicken. If sauce becomes too dry, thin with a splash or two of wine. Another option would be to brown the meat, place all the ingredients in a crock pot and allow to simmer on low for about 8 hours. Remove lid from crock pot and let sauce thicken while the noodles are cooked.

For Spaghetti Noodles: Bring a pot of well-salted water to a full boil. Add pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until al-dente, about 10 minutes. Drain well, reserving some of the cooking water. DO NOT RINSE!

Serving options: Leave pasta in colander over a pot of barely simmering water. Let everyone serve themselves, using as much or as little of the sauce as desired. Or place pasta in a large serving bowl, spoon meat sauce over pasta, toss to blend and serve.

Buon appetito!

Spaghetti with Meatballs for a Crowd

Lately I’ve been craving Spaghetti and Meatball Sandwiches. Since these yummy sandwiches make use of leftover Spaghetti and Meatballs; first I had to make the Spaghetti in order to have the leftovers. (See What To Do with those Pesky Left-Overs? for the sandwiches). Can’t put the cart before the horse, so I’ve made a big bowl of Spaghetti with plenty of yummy meatballs for later.

I know most people fry up their meatballs before placing them into the sauce. I’ve even seen some recipes that call for uncooked meatballs, although I’ve never tried that – seems the balls would fall apart. I like to bake my meatballs for two reasons – I can fit more balls on a baking sheet than I can in a skillet (the more meatballs cooked at once, the less time it takes since you aren’t cooking in batches), and baked is healthier than fried.

Spaghetti and meat ball sandwichesWhenever I make Spaghetti with Meatballs; I like to make a big batch – a pound of noodles with two and a half pounds of meatballs. Yeah, that’s a lot. You can feed a crowd or have plenty of leftovers for those yummy sandwiches and then some. It really doesn’t take anymore time to make a big batch as it does to make a small batch (except maybe forming the balls themselves) so why not go for it?

Bertolli<sup>®</sup> Organic Traditional Tomato & Basil SauceMy sauce starts with a jar of commercial sauce and from there I create a sauce that is almost as yummy as sauce made from scratch using home-grown tomatoes. Of all the brands out there, I prefer Bertolli Organic sauce as a base. If you have your own home-made sauce, by all means use it!

Spaghetti with Meatballs
Ingredients – Meat Balls
1 1/2 lb Lean Ground Beef
1 Lb Mild Italian Sausage, mild or hot
1 Tablespoon Italian Seasoning
2 Tablespoons Roasted Garlic, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
2-3 Slices of crusty bread, broken into small pieces
1-3 Tablespoons Milk

Preheat oven to 350-degrees

In a small bowl, place crusty bread, torn into small pieces. Add enough milk to moisten bread.

In a large bowl, combine ground beef, Italian sausage and roasted garlic. Season with salt, pepper and Italian seasoning.

Add bread mixture to meat mixture. Kneed to blend well.

Form the meat mixture into desired meatballs of approximately the same size. Place balls on a rimmed baking sheet. When all the meat balls have been formed, place into the oven and bake, shaking pan occasionally for even browning, until cooked through.

Small balls cook in 10-15 minutes; large balls cook in 15-20 minutes.

While meatballs bake, make the sauce.

Ingredients – Pasta Sauce
1 Tablespoon Butter
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
2-3 Garlic Cloves, chopped
¼ Cup Onions, finely Chopped
¼ Cup Carrots, finely chopped
1 Can (14.5) Oz Italian-Style Tomatoes, Crushed
1 Jars Basic Spaghetti Sauce
½ Cup Red Wine

Chop garlic, onions and carrots. Set aside until ready to use.

In saucepan, melt butter with olive oil over medium heat. Sauté carrots and onions until tender, 3-4 minutes. Add garlic, sauté without allowing garlic to color, 1-2 minutes.

Add the crushed tomatoes and spaghetti sauce. To the now empty jar of sauce, add the red wine. Swirl jar around and pour into the saucepan. Stir to blend. Bring to a full boil, lower heat to simmer.

When meatballs are cooked through, add to sauce. Let simmer about 30 minutes for flavors to merge and marry. If sauce appears too dry, add a splash or two of red wine to maintain consistency.

While sauce simmers, bring a large pot of salted water to a rapid boil.


Ingredients – Pasta
1 lb Spaghetti or other long, round noodle

Place 1 lb Spaghetti noodles in water, stirring occasionally to promote “dancing” of pasta. Cook al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain well.

Place pasta in a large, warm serving bowl. Pour meat balls and sauce over top, toss well to mix and serve immediately.

This is great with warm, crusty Italian bread and a simple salad

Spero vi piaccia questo delizioso piatto!