True Bolognese sauce, like most delicious Italian meals, requires at least a day of effort. And it is worth it.
But, for those of us who wish to experience close to the truth for significantly less than a day's effort there are many options.
For example, tonight, E2 and J came for dinner. Like the good lawyer and bad wife that I've been lately, we had nothing to feed guests for dinner. So, we dug into the freezer and defrosted the second half of the frozen gnocchi and we served it with a make-shift bolognese composed of ingredients purchased 2 hours prior to serving alongside blanched asparagus spears. It was quick, easy, and delicious. Amazingly quick, easy, and delicious, if I'm honest. In fact, I often avoid meals of this nature when they might be easier than others for which I opt (Granted, the true effort for the gnocchi had been completed, and we were living off of that glory, but with boxed penne, the sauce still would have been excellent.)
-1.25 lb lean ground sirloin
-1/2 large yellow onion, chopped
-3 to 8 cloves of garlic, minced
-2 T butter
-dried chili flakes
-1 large can stewed tomatoes
-3 small flavorful fall tomatoes from your plant, sliced (okay, so this ingredient is probably unnecessary)
-dried basil (or the real thing, but if so, don't add it 'til the end)
-hard but medium-aged cheese for ribbon grating
1. In a large saucepan or pot, melt the butter and sautée the onions and garlic until clear and fragrant.
2. Add the meat. Stir and cut with the stirring implement until evenly browing.
3. Add spices as you like (we chose oregano, basil, dried parsely, cayenne, dried red pepper, & mustard powder). Stir until evenly absorbed.
4. Add tomatoes, stir and simmer.
5. Finish cooking pasta and remove it and the sauce from heat. After both have cooled slightly, toss the pasta in the sauce pot.
6. Serve immediately. Top with grated cheese.
This meal is guaranteed to make your house smell like amazing Italian food and herbs. It is also guaranteed to taste fabulous. Sure, it's missing long cook times, wine as an ingredient, and all sorts of other stuff (mushrooms!). But I guarantee (again!) -- This is the basics of a good meat sauce. If you like, you can sub in pork, veal, or better yet, add 'em to the mix. But regardless, this is the max bang for the effort you will achieve. And, as an eater, it's delicious.