You might think, given the extraordinary rise in interest in food and cooking, that we would be spending more time in the kitchen. But absolutely everything has conspired to cut that time down to a bare minimum. In his fascinating book “Cooked” (Penguin 2014) Michael Pollan, author of “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”, comes down hard on our ‘fast food’ nation. He points out that in 1965, we spent 60 minutes a day on food preparation. And not only that, we cook less than any other country on earth. Pollan’s goal is to change that and intrigue us with how much slower cooking can add—not subtract– from our day. But until he convinces us all of that premise, it seems to me that if you are going to limit your time in the kitchen, you might as well cook something as savory and satisfying at this Chorizo sausage-based Bolognese.
The World’s Fastest Pasta Sauce? Chorizo "Bolognese" with Buffalo Mozzarella adapted from Donna Hay
A classic Bolognese sauce takes hours on the stove where the sweetness of tomatoes, onions, celery and carrots blend with beef, and pork to come together in one of Italy’s most treasured sauces. In Italian American houses, it is called “Sunday Sauce” because the bulk of the day is spent creating family versions of Bolognese. The sauce is then served over perfectly cooked pasta where it is topped with the tart taste of grated Parmesan cheese. So when I came across a recipe that claimed you could have a version of Bolognese on the table in 15 minutes…15 minutes!, to say the least, I was intrigued. What I ended up with in this cheater’s “Bolognese”, was a supremely rich, aromatic and slightly spicy sauce complemented by the extra creaminess of Buffalo Mozzarella. The Buffalo in question is a Water Buffalo and the cheese produced from its milk makes plain old Mozzarella amazingly bland in comparison. This is a perfect meal for a weeknight and especially perfect given a staggering statistic I read recently: the average American is now spending all of 27 minutes a day preparing the food we eat.
The author this recipe is Donna Hay, certainly Australia’s most renowned food editor and cookbook author. Ms. Hay, who started her career as a food stylist and writer at age 19, has a publications called “Donna Hay Magazine” and it’s from there that this recipe came. Using Chorizo is a stroke of genius because this Spanish sausage packs a wallop of flavor from being fermented, cured and smoked. Its smoky flavor comes from pimenton, Spain’s dried smoked red pepper. There’s no substituting fresh Mexican chorizo in this recipe, it has to be the genuine article.
I took a liberty with Ms. Hay’s recipe, sautéing a red onion for sweetness before cooking the sausage in the same pan. The Chorizo itself is broken down in the food processor to a consistency of ground beef, for which it is, after all, a substitute. Combined with chili flakes, garlic, salt and pepper it cooks very quickly. Some wine, tomatoes and sugar round out the ingredients. In all honesty, I think you’d have to be far more well-organized in the kitchen than I am to pull this off in 15 minutes but I had absolutely no trouble in getting on the table in 30 minutes. If you do want to make this in the fastest time possible, you should have your pasta water at a rolling boil and cook the fettucine or tagliatelle while the sauce is in its final, six minute reduction. Plate the pasta, ladle the sauce over it and break the Buffalo Mozzarella into pieces and put the pieces atop and to one side of the pasta. Dinner is served in under a half an hour. Here is the recipe:
Donna Hay’s Chorizo Bolognese with Buffalo Mozzarella
Takes as little as 15 minutes to make. Serves 4 and can easily be halved.
1 pound dried chorizo, chopped
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon dried chili flakes
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Sea salt and cracked black pepper
1/2 cup red wine
1 (14-ounce) can chopped tomatoes
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 pound tagliatelle or linguine
9 ounces buffalo mozzarella, torn
1. Place the chorizo in a food processor and process until finely chopped. Set aside.
2. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over moderate heat. Add the red onion and cook for 2 to 3 minutes until it is soft, not browned.
3. Add the chorizo, chili flakes, garlic, salt and pepper to the pan and cook, stirring, for 3–4 minutes or until golden and crispy. Add the wine and cook for 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and sugar and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium, cover with a lid and cook for 5–6 minutes or until the liquid has slightly reduced.
While the chorizo mixture is cooking, cook the pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water for 6–8 minutes or until al dente. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid.
Add the reserved cooking liquid to the chorizo mixture and stir to combine.
4. Top the pasta with the chorizo mixture, mozzarella, and freshly ground pepper and serve.