Kitchen MacGyver: Rainy Day Bolognese

Today’s recipe is dedicated to the more than 19,700 finishers of the 2011 L.A. Marathon. Despite wind, hail and unrelenting rain, an astounding number of finishers persevered, and record-setting performances were made by winner Markos Geneti and women’s runner-up Amy Hastings. The Los Angeles Times reported that thousands of runners were evaluated for hypothermia and 25 were hospitalized—a fellow Competitor editor, running her first 26.2-mile road race, was among the unfortunate 25 (she’s a trooper, though, and is back at work today and feeling fine).

Although miserable to endure, it’s days like these that prove how much mental mettle the marathon requires. But, at the end of the race, when effort translates into numbers of miles conquered or the time on the finish clock, everyone deserves comfort. First, it’s a heat sheet, followed by dry clothes and shoes. Then, after post-race rituals are completed, marathoners require a warm, soul-soothing meal.

Rainy Day Bolognese

2 teaspoons olive oil, plus more for serving (if desired)

1 large yellow onion, diced

2 large carrots, diced

2 celery stalks (including leaves), diced

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon salt, plus more

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 package Boca ground crumbles OR 2 pounds ground chuck

1 6oz can tomato paste (I like Muir Glen)

3 cups bold red wine

2-3 bay leaves

1 teaspoon fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme


1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for serving

1 pound whole-wheat spaghetti

In a large saute pan over medium heat, cook onion, carrots, celery and garlic in olive oil until lightly browned, about 12-15 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add Boca crumbles or ground meat; if using soy crumbles, heat through for about 5 minutes, stirring often. If using ground meat, break up meat with a wooden spoon and allow to brown, stirring often. Add tomato paste and mix well. Add red wine, bay leaves and thyme, and simmer for 5-7 minutes, or until the wine has reduced by half. Turn heat down to medium-low and add about 1/2 cup water. Simmer with the lid on, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes. If mixture gets too dry, stir in more water. Taste and add more salt and pepper, if necessary. When sauce is thick and seasoned to your liking, remove the bay leaves.

While the sauce is simmering, cook pasta about 2 minutes shy of package directions. With a slotted pasta spoon, add noodles directly into the sauce pan. Add some of the starchy cooking liquid if the sauce is too thick to coat the noodles. Stir noodles into sauce until well combined and add the cheese.

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