Recipe from Year-Round Slow Cooker by Dina Cheney (Taunton Press, 2013)
Photo by Andrew Hugh Purcell © 2013
Prep time: 1 hour
Slow cooker time: 8 hours
Makes 11 cups
- 1⁄4 cup dried porcini or other wild mushrooms
- 3 slices white bread
- 1 cup whole milk
- Scant 3 pounds ground beef chuck or meatloaf mix, at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons coarse salt
- 15 grinds black pepper
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1⁄2 pound pancetta, coarsely chopped
- 1 cup finely chopped porcini mushrooms (about 5 large)
- 2 cups finely chopped carrots (about 4 medium)
- 1 cup finely chopped celery (about 4 stalks)
- 1 cup finely chopped red onions (about 1 small)
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
- 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1⁄2 cup tomato paste (about 5 ounces)
- 1⁄4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup dry red wine, such as Cabernet Sauvignon,
- 3⁄4 cup canned diced tomatoes, with juice
- 1⁄2 cup low-sodium chicken stock
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary leaves
- 1 pound pappardelle pasta, cooked according to the package directions
This rich, complex sauce smells and tastes like fall—with its earthy mushrooms, smoky pancetta, and sweet woodsy rosemary. Serve it over pasta, ideally pappardelle, and freeze any extra (this recipe makes a lot of sauce). I use a smaller quantity of milk than is traditional, since milk can curdle in the slow cooker. Be sure to use high-quality pancetta and feel free to vary the kind of mushroom.
1. Add the dried mushrooms to a small bowl and cover with very hot water; let sit for 15 minutes, then drain and finely chop. In a large bowl, mash the bread and milk together until a smooth paste forms. Gently knead in the beef, salt, and pepper, and mix well.
2. Add the butter to a medium-size, heavy saucepan and heat over medium-high heat. When melted, add the pancetta and sauté until browned, about 8 minutes. Pour off all but about 2 tablespoons of the fat. Add the meat mixture, and cook until browned, about 10 minutes. Add the fresh porcini and cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Stir in the dried mushrooms, carrots, celery, onions, garlic, and nutmeg.
Sauté until the vegetables are slightly softened and aromatic, about 3 minutes. Add the tomato paste and flour, and cook until the flour is no longer visible, no more than 1 minute. With the pan off the heat, carefully add the wine. Then return the pan to high heat and stir well, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to release any food bits. Cook for 2 minutes, then stir in the tomatoes and stock, and cook for another minute. Pour into the slow cooker.
3. Cover the slow cooker and cook on low until the meat has cooked through and the sauce is aromatic and very flavorful, about 6 hours. Spoon the fat off the surface, stir in the rosemary, break up the meat more with a fork, and serve with pasta.
Slow Cooker Secret: Determining Accompaniments
When deciding on accompaniments to the recipes, rely on the suggestions I’ve provided in the headnotes as well as on traditional pairings, like Bolognese sauce with pappardelle pasta or vegetable chili with tortilla chips. Classic stews, such as pot roast, are delicious spooned over or alongside starches, but don’t rely on the old standbys. Instead, try polenta, rice, couscous, quinoa, farro, pasta, mashed root vegetables, or toasts. And don’t forget a quickly cooked fresh vegetable, which rounds out the plate. Top desserts with ice cream, crème fraîche, sweetened sour cream, whipped cream, or sweet sauces.