Weeknight Cooking: Wolfgang Puck’s Chicken Bolognese

I’ve been craving bolognese. It’s an intense wanting that has been going on for weeks now. The other night I almost ended up going to a good Italian restaurant and getting my fix, but it didn’t work out. And by that, I mean we called to find out if we needed a reservation, the lady on the phone told us if we came right down we could sit right down, and when we showed up five minutes later we were turned away because we needed a reservation.

So I still didn’t get any bolognese.

I always think it’s better at an Italian restaurant than anything you can make at home. There’s a little je ne sais quoi in the tomato based sauce that I’ve never been able to replicate at home. In fact, I had abandoned the idea of making bolognese a long time ago because it always disappoints.

Until last night. On a whim, I was checking through the Food Network website’s recipes for something good, and I came upon a few bolognese recipes. But I was jaded. I had tried before, opening my heart to the possibility of a good bolognese recipe only to have my hopes dashed to the ground, spat upon and then danced that stupid “Hey Macarena!” dance on it — that’s right, my previous bolognese attemps weren’t even good enough for a decent dance to dance upon them.

Then I found Wolfgang Puck’s recipe. I thought to myself: Wolfgang Puck owns restaurants. Wolfgang Puck also has a bolognese recipe.

It was like the chocolate and the peanut butter coming together in one great, glorious masterpiece, people. I printed the recipe, ran to the store and BAM! VOILA! (sorry Emeril) in about an hour, I had a delicious, restaurant quality bolognese sauce. And I’ll tell you the secret of the delicious sauce: It’s the V8 juice. Seriously.

I took pictures but I left my camera at home, so you’re just going to have to settle for the picture provided by the Food Network.

Chicken Bolognese with Penne
Courtesy of Wolfgang Puck

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound ground chicken
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup finely chopped carrots
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1 tablespoon thyme leaves
Pinch chili flakes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 cups tomato sauce
1/2 cup tomato juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for garnish
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves (optional)
1 pound penne pasta

Here’s a quick discussion on ingredients. For the sodium conscious, I used the low sodium cans of V8 juice. For the dry white wine, I used the generic store bought white wine – Wegman’s brand. (Sorry, wine snobs! I couldn’t get to the wine store last night!) Instead of taking the time to dice up hard, crunchy carrots, I stuck them in the food processor and pulsed them until they were a rough, fine chop.

Now for the directions from Food Network and Wolfgang Puck, modified slightly by yours truly:

Heat olive oil in a large sauce pan on high heat. When the oil is hot, add the ground chicken and cook until well browned, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Add the onion, garlic, carrots, celery, thyme, and chili flakes and cook until the vegetables are softened, about 5 to 8 minutes. Carefully deglaze the pan with the white wine, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Reduce until the white wine is almost completely evaporated.

Add the tomato sauce and juice and simmer until a thick sauce consistency, about 20 minutes. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper.

Cook the penne in boiling water until al dente. Drain the pasta and set aside. Add the drained pasta to the sauce along with the Parmesan and toss well. Serve in a large bowl garnished with parsley leaves.

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