Recipe Review

I Tried Anne Burrell’s 5-Star Pasta Bolognese (It’s Made with a Shocking Amount of Wine)

published Feb 1, 2021
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Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell; Headshot: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

Chef Anne Burrell has significant culinary expertise. She studied at the Culinary Institute of America. She worked at Michelin-starred restaurant La Bottega del 30 in Italy and under famed Italian American chef Lidia Bastianich in New York City. She’s appeared regularly on food competition shows like Iron Chef and Chopped. And, of course, she won our epic meatball showdown. Surely she would have some Bolognese tricks up her sleeve.

What attracted me to Anne’s recipe was her use of three cuts of beef — brisket, chuck, and round — which are all nice marbled cuts that can bring on great flavor. I also liked her shortcut of chopping the aromatics in the food processor, and was intrigued by her decision to use tomato paste instead of chopped canned tomatoes for deeper flavor. Plus, whereas most recipes use 3/4 to 1 1/4 cups wine, she calls for a full 3 cups. My instincts told me this could be a lot, but her recipe does yield a larger quantity.

Would her five-star recipe impress me as much as I hoped? I tried it to find out.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell

How to Make Anne Burrell’s Pasta Bolognese

You’ll begin by placing the onion, carrots, and celery in a food processor and pulsing until the mixture becomes a coarse paste. Transfer to a large oiled pan and cook over medium-high heat until the water evaporates and the vegetables brown. Add the beef and brown with the vegetables. Add a full 2 cups tomato paste, cook until brown, then add 3 cups red wine and continue cooking until the liquid is reduced by half. Add a bundle of fresh thyme, 3 bay leaves, and enough water to cover the meat mixture by 1 inch. Let simmer for 3 1/2 to 4 hours, adding water as needed.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell

My Honest Review of Anne Burrell’s Bolognese

There are a few things I really like about this recipe. I appreciate its use of traditional Bolognese aromatics, and I like the option of including three different less-lean cuts of beef. And while I ultimately preferred the chunky cuts of vegetables in the other recipes I tried, I did appreciate Anne’s shortcut of prepping the aromatics in a food processor. 

Unfortunately, that’s about all the praise I can give. As anticipated, 3 cups of wine (that’s almost a quart!) proved to be way too much. Even though it’s reduced by half and then simmered for hours, the deep wine flavor never balances out and remains intense until the very end.

Two cups of tomato paste also proved to be too much. It’s a lot of deep, concentrated tomato flavor, and by the time it’s simmered with a whole bundle of thyme, it makes the flavors that much heavier. Simmering the beef in liquid for that long also makes it very tender, almost to the point of disintegrating on your palate. The vegetables melt down completely, to the point where they’re not even noticeable in the sauce. 

At the end of the day, this Bolognese took all the time and effort of a Sunday sauce without the rich flavors, deep comfort, and satisfaction of one. It just felt like a very fancy red sauce — one that wasn’t very well-balanced, with an overt wine flavor.

Credit: Amelia Rampe

If You’re Making Anne Burrell’s Bolognese, a Few Tips

  1. Use a can of diced San Marzano tomatoes instead of tomato paste. I think this would lighten up the flavor of the dish and bring better balance.
  2. Use white wine instead of red. Or, try less wine altogether.
  3. Use a Dutch oven. The recipe calls for a large pan, which I took to mean a large high-sided skillet, and it was much too small. Opt for a large pot or Dutch oven instead.

Rating: 4/10

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell; Headshots From Left to Right: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images, Noam Galai/Getty Images, Barbara Banks, Food & Wine

Have you ever made Anne Burrell’s bolognese recipe? Tell us what you thought in the comments!