There’s a coffee drink at Bottletree Bakery in Oxford, Mississippi, called the Bowl of Soul. No offense to Bottletree–I miss your Blueberry Brioche desperately–but I’m pretty sure spaghetti smothered in rich bolognese is the real bowl of soul. It lifts my spirits and brings me back down to earth at the same time. And while this sauce doesn’t give me the luxury of the aroma of tomato sauce slowly simmering on the stove all day, this sauce doesn’t have to slowly simmer on the stove all day. Yet it tastes like it did, and you can practically hear generations of Italian family members applauding your every bite. And I thought chocolate was the only food that could make you feel like you’re being wrapped in a slow embrace. Hence bowl of soul. Enjoy.

Simply Elegant Bolognese

(adapted from Everyday Italian)

1. As I prefer to prep everything rather than chop as I go–it’s much more leisurely, especially when combined with a glass of wine–chop 1 medium onion, 2 garlic cloves (place these in one bowl or pile) and 1 large carrot, and 1 celery stalk (set these aside).

2. Heat a large (emphasis on large) skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2-4 tablespoonfuls of olive oil. (Don’t skimp to save on calories–you’ll need the oil to keep the vegetables from burning. If you’re worried about fat, use a leaner ground beef or even ground turkey.) Add the onion and garlic and a pinch of salt; saute until the onion is quite tender, around 8-10 minutes. Add the carrot and celery. Saute another 5 minutes or until softened. Increase the heat to high and add 1 lb. of lean ground beef; break up and saute until browned, about 8 minutes.

3. Stir in 1 jar (about 24 oz.) of tomato basil marinara sauce, 1 (14-oz.) can diced tomatoes, and a heavy pinch of dried basil, oregano, thyme, and crushed red pepper flakes, as well as salt and pepper. Simmer 30 minutes or so over medium-low heat until thickened. (Quick trick: To get all of the sauce out of the jar, pour in everything you easily can, then add a splash of water to the jar, screw on the lid, shake, and pour into the pan. It will thicken up and you won’t feel wasteful It always makes me feel better.) After 30 minutes, season with salt and pepper to taste. If it tastes too acidic (bright, perhaps harsh on your tongue) add a pinch of sugar.

4. Meanwhile, cook 1 lb. of spaghetti in salted water according to package directions. Pile pasta into a bowl, smother with sauce, add grated parmesan (or parmeggiano-reggiano, even pecorino if you’re feeling fancy) and enjoy! Oh, and pour yourself a second glass of wine–you deserve it.

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