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There is a bowl of rigatoni pasta with a tomato vegetable sauce, topped with parmesan shavings and pea tendrils. The bowl is white with a blue handpainted phrase that reads, "la bellezza passa, la fame no," which is Italian for, "beauty fade, hunger doesn't." In the top right corner we see a glass of golden white wine.

Summertime Bolognese

Recipe and photos by Bebe Carminito


I love a good hearty Bolognese or ragù sauce, however, in the summer I like my sauces a little lighter. My Summertime Bolognese is made with ground chicken, white wine, loads of fresh summer veggies, and a few of my favorite fresh herbs. I also add dried herbs, such as fennel seed, rosemary, Italian seasoning, and oregano. If you like a bit of heat, add crushed red pepper flakes which is completely optional. 

For the fresh summer veg, I use zucchini, cherry tomatoes, freshly shucked corn, and garden peas. Rounding out the veg lineup, I also use a few components we typically add to our classic bolognese such as carrots, celery, garlic, and onion. Feel free to swap out your favorite summer veg and if you want to you can use your preferred protein in lieu of ground chicken or a plant based meat product of your choosing. If you don’t have fresh corn or peas, I have added measurements for frozen. 

As for the pasta, rigatoni is a staple in our household. You can try your hand at making your own (yes, homemade rigatoni are possible!) or simply use any dry pasta of your choosing.

I garnished my summertime bolognese with edible pea flowers and tendrils to celebrate summer as they were available to me, however, this is also the perfect dish to garnish with fresh basil leaves.

Good news: this sauce cooks in about an hour so pour yourself a glass of wine and let it simmer away!

Summertime Bolognese

Serves 4-6

Prep time: 25 Minutes
Cook time: 75 Minutes

Special Equipment

6.75-quart Dutch oven

Ingredients

3 tablespoons olive oil, or more if needed
1 medium yellow onion, finely diced (about 2 cups)
2 stalks of celery, thinly sliced (about 1½ cups)
2 large or 3 small peeled carrots, finely diced (about Âľ cup)
2 zucchini, cut into half-moons (about 2 ½ cups)
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1 fresh ear of white or yellow corn, off the cob, or 1 cup frozen corn
1 cup fresh or frozen peas
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound ground chicken
1½ teaspoons fine sea salt
Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
½ cup white wine (I like Pinot Grigio and don’t forget to pour yourself a glass!)
1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce 
1 (15-ounce) can of crushed tomatoes
2½ teaspoons fennel seed
1 teaspoon dried crushed rosemary
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon dried oregano 
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flake (optional)
1 Parmesan rind (optional)
5 large basil leaves, sliced chiffonade-style or torn
4 sprigs of fresh oregano leaves 
Freshly grated Parmesan, to finish
Fresh pea flowers and tendrils, to finish (optional)
1 pound rigatoni pasta, fresh or dried (see our homemade rigatoni recipe)

Method

To make the bolognese:

Heat a 6.75-quart Dutch oven on medium heat. When hot, add olive oil and swirl to coat the pan. Add onion, celery, carrots, zucchini, tomatoes, corn, and peas and cook until tender and tomatoes have burst about 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook about one more minute until fragrant.

Add ground chicken, 1½ teaspoons fine sea salt, and a few turns of fresh cracked pepper. Cook until no longer pink, about 6-8 minutes while breaking up larger pieces of chicken with a wooden spoon.

Add white wine, dried herbs, and crushed pepper flakes, if using. Cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to incorporate the ingredients.

Add tomato sauce, crushed tomatoes, and Parmesan rind if using. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 30~45 minutes until color deepens to a brick red, stirring occasionally. Run a spatula around the pan and under sauce as needed as it simmers.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of salted, boiling water until al dente.

About ten minutes before bolognese is done, add the fresh herbs. Season sauce to taste and toss with rigatoni and a little pasta water. Finish with freshly grated Parmesan and if you feel fancy garnish with pea flowers, pea tendrils, or basil leaves. Divertiti!

Storage Tips: Summertime bolognese can last up to 4 days in your refrigerator in a tightly covered container or, about 3 to 4 months properly sealed in your freezer. To reheat, slowly simmer in a saucepan on medium-low heat.

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