Slow-Cooked Turkey Bolognese with Chicken Sausage and Homemade Spelt and Flax Pasta

This is the perfect weekend meal.  During the week, I generally limit myself to pre-planned lunches and a handful of quick, simple dinners.  On the weekend, however, I like to let myself go.  I sit at the kitchen table reading through my newest cookbook finds from the library, picking out recipes that I want to make.  I usually pick way too many recipes and spend some more time interrogating C about what he wants to eat.  Then I get started.

When I first read Gwyneth Paltrow's recipe for Turkey Bolognese from My Father's Daughter, I was a little hesitant.  The listed preparation time is 5 hours, and while I may spend most of my Saturday cooking anyway, I usually don't spend 5 hours cooking one dish.  But I was really craving some traditional Italian food, so I made the time investment and was thoroughly delighted with the result.

Of course I changed the recipe a bit, adding some carrots and celery, a little extra tomato paste, and a pinch of dried herbs, but nothing too radical.  I also decided to make some homemade pasta to go with my slow-cooked sauce (I had the time, right?).  I honored tradition by using half semolina flour, but I also added whole grain spelt flour and flax meal to the dough to make the pasta a bit easier to digest.  If the Goop Cleanse taught me anything, it's that little choices made at each meal to aid digestion can add up to much bigger effects in the aggregate.

If you're looking for a quick, healthy version of this for a weeknight, try my Turkey Bolognese with Quinoa recipe.  It will satisfy the craving for Italian food in a fraction of the time.  But honestly, if you're having company over for dinner or have some time on a long weekend, definitely give this slower version a try. Then sit down and watch an episode of the Sopranos and call it a night.  

Slow-Cooked Turkey Bolognese with Chicken Sausage (4-6 servings)
2-3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3/4 pound hot Italian sausage made with chicken or turkey* (about 3 links)
1 pound ground turkey (Lean or dark will work, but I'd go with darker meat for this)
Kosher salt and black pepper
1 large yellow onion, peeled and finely diced
2 medium carrots, peeled and finely diced
2 celery stalks, leaves removed and finely diced
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 28-oz. cans organic whole peeled tomatoes in juice**
1/2 cup filtered water or red wine, plus additional water as needed
1 6-oz. can organic tomato paste
Pinch of dried basil and oregano
Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
3/4 lb. pasta, or Homemade Spelt & Flax Pasta (recipe below)
Freshly-grated Parmesan cheese for serving

*I used the fresh Hot Italian Chicken Sausage at the Whole Foods, which was flavorful, but much lower in fat than traditional pork sausage.  You can get mild Italian sausage, but this sauce is pretty mild to start with, so I went for the hot version.
**I get the Muir Organic brand whole peeled tomatoes from Whole Foods.  The quality of the tomatoes is important, so I'd spend an extra dollar or two to get the good ones.  I also like San Marzano tomatoes for Italian dishes.

1.  Heat 1-2 Tablespoons of olive oil in a large Dutch oven (or other heavy pan) over medium-high heat.  Cut the sausages in half and add them to the hot pan.  Cook for about 10 minutes, turning the sausages so they cook evenly, until they are evenly browned.  Remove the sausages to a plate and set aside.
2.  Add the ground turkey to the pan, season with salt and pepper, and cook for about 10 minutes, until the meat is cooked through and a bit browned.  Remove the turkey from the pan and add it to the plate with the sausage.
Add another tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and add the onion, carrots, and celery to the pan.  Cook until the vegetables are soft and starting to brown, about 8 minutes.  Add the garlic, stir, and cook for another minute or so.
3.  Add the canned tomatoes and the water or red wine to the pot.  Add the ground turkey and sausages back to the pot, and make sure the meat is covered by the liquid.  Bring the sauce to a boil, add a pinch of salt and pepper, and turn the heat down to low.
4.  Partially cover the pot with the lid, leaving just about 1/2 inch of space on one side for the steam to escape.  Gently simmer for 3-4 hours, stirring occasionally and adding a bit of water (or extra wine) to the sauce if it looks a little dry.
5.  After 3 or 4 hours of simmering, add in the tomato paste and a pinch of basil and oregano, partially cover the pot, and allow the sauce to simmer for 1 additional hour.  Stir in a pinch of red pepper flakes at the end if you think the sauce needs a little heat.
6.  I used the last hour or so of simmering time to make homemade pasta, but if you're using boxed pasta, bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and add a big pinch of salt.  Cook the pasta according to the package directions.  Drain the pasta, reserving a little bit of pasta cooking water (1/4 to 1/2 cup).

7.  Add the cooked pasta to a bowl (or back in the pot to save on dishes) with the pasta water and one ladle full of the tomato sauce.  Mix the pasta with the water and sauce so that each noodle has a light coating of tomato sauce - this will keep the pasta from clumping on the plate.  Serve the pasta with additional tomato sauce on top and some freshly-grated Parmesan cheese.
Nutrition facts for one serving of sauce, assuming the recipe yields 6 total servings and you use 3 Tablespoons of olive oil and water (rather than red wine) in the sauce:

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 490 g
Amount Per Serving
Calories from Fat
% Daily Value*
Total Fat
Saturated Fat
Trans Fat
Total Carbohydrates
Dietary Fiber
Vitamin A 126%Vitamin C 76%
Calcium 9%Iron 21%

Homemade Spelt & Flax Pasta (4-6 servings)
1 cup semolina flour
1 cup whole grain spelt flour
2 Tablespoons flaxmeal, or ground flax seeds
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 medium organic eggs, or 2 large or extra large eggs
1.5 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Water, as needed, 1 Tablespoon at a time

1. Add the semolina flour, spelt flour, flaxmeal, and salt to the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse to combine.
2. Whisk together the eggs and olive oil (I used the 1-cup measuring cup from the flour to save on dishes).  Turn the food processor on, and slowly pour in the egg mixture through the feed tube of the food processor.  Add some water to the cup used for the egg mixture, and slowly add about one tablespoon of water to the dough with the food processor running until it comes together in a ball.
3.  Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes.  Cover the dough with a towel or plastic wrap and let it rest for about 20 minutes.
4.  Cut the dough into about 6 pieces, and use a pasta roller and cutter to make your desired pasta shapes.  I made fettuccine for the Turkey Bolognese sauce and some cappellini for dinner the following evening.  The recipe will yield about 4-6 servings of pasta, depending on portion size.  Cooking time was about 2 minutes for the fettuccine, angel hair will likely cook in no time.
Nutrition facts for one serving of pasta, assuming this recipe yields 6 total servings:

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 71 g
Amount Per Serving
Calories from Fat
% Daily Value*
Total Fat
Saturated Fat
Total Carbohydrates
Dietary Fiber
Vitamin A 2%Vitamin C 0%
Calcium 2%Iron 14%

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