Tom is Italian. Let me make this clear from the beginning. If you want to get technical about it, he’s only 1/4 Italian with the rest being German and Swedish. But it’s the Italian that’s the important part, and where our last name comes from. His middle name comes from his very Italian grandfather, and I may or may not have laughed the first time he told me what it is (and no, I’m not going to tell you. We have to keep some things private.) But now I realize that it suits him. It’s part of who Tom is, and who he identifies with.
In the interest of keeping the Italian traditions alive, we (I) cook a lot of Italian food. And by Italian food, I mean pasta. And we’re not talking marinara from a jar. Good heavens, no. We’re talking about simmered-all-day, veggies chopped on the cutting board, three or more cloves of garlic kind of pasta. It’s exhausting. In a good way. Penne alla vodka, lasagne, white wine garlic sauce, homemade meat sauce, and bolognese. Although I have big plans to make a chicken with 40 cloves of garlic like I’ve seen on various websites, pasta is mainly how we roll. And Sweet Pea loves her noodles. Or “noonles” as she usually says.
For this bolognese sauce, I used a recipe by Marcella Hazan as a starting point. Now there are many people who feel that tinkering with her recipes is akin to committing murder. But when you use as much butter and other dairy products as she does, we have to do a little tinkering in this house. Bolognese sauce usually contains heavy cream or whole milk to give the meat a creamy consistency and counteract the acid in the tomatoes. It’s not a tomato-rich sauce by any means. The combination of the wine, milk, and tomatoes give the sauce a very distinctive flavor that’s hard to replicate without the dairy. But I think I’ve come close by using full-fat canned coconut milk. WHAT? Coconut milk, you say? That’s crazy. I don’t want tropical pasta sauce. Let me assure you, you don’t even taste the coconut in the final product. (well, maybe you would if you eat bolognese every week and are a hard-core dairy fan. But for our purposes, you don’t taste it at all.) This may not be a traditional Italian sauce, but it sure is tasty!
This recipe makes enough for two pounds of pasta. We usually make a batch, then use half with a pound of pasta and freeze the other half of the sauce for dinner in a week or two. It freezes beautifully, just reheat it gently on the stove and stir in your cooked pasta. If you try it this way, let me know what you think! Can you taste the coconut?
Dairy-Free Bolognese Sauce
3 Tbsp. olive oil
4 Tbsp. dairy-free margarine
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 small white or yellow onion, minced
1 small carrot, minced
1 celery rib, minced
2 lb. ground meat (we have used beef and pork, and turkey and pork. Feel free to throw in whatever you have.)
2 c. white wine
1 c. full-fat canned coconut milk
1 (28 oz.) can whole peeled tomatoes with their juices (dicing them is easy, just put your kitchen shears down into the can and snip away!)
2 lb. cooked, drained pasta for serving
Melt margarine and olive oil together in a large dutch oven over medium heat. Add onions and garlic, and saute until the onion is translucent. Add carrot and celery, and saute for two more minutes. Add the ground meat, breaking it up with your spoon as it cooks. Cook the meat until it is no longer pink and raw, but don’t let it brown. Pour in the wine, turn the heat up to medium high, keep stirring it occasionally, and let it bubble away until the wine is fully evaporated/incorporated into the meat. Pour in the coconut milk, turn down the heat to medium, keep stirring it occasionally, and let it simmer until the milk is fully incorporated. Finally, pour in the tomatoes and their juice. Turn the heat down to the barest simmer, and let the sauce cook for 2-5 hours. Toss with cooked pasta and enjoy!
Recipe note: When you add in the coconut milk, the mixture looks really icky. That’s a technical term. Please just trust me on this one. It gets better, I promise!