Got Leftover Charcuterie? Make This Extra Flavorful Bolognese

Reduce food waste and make dinner even better with this recipe that turns extra charcuterie into dinner.

Cured meats

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After holiday gatherings, dinner parties, or a particularly fancy snack dinner, you might have acquired some lonesome leftover ends of salami and prosciutto, or hunks of country ham. These odd shaped pieces and ends are not quite enough for another beautiful charcuterie board, but should never be thrown away,

Instead, these bits of cured meat are destined to become part of pasta night with this recipe for Pasta with Salumi Bolognese from chef Sarah Grueneberg of Chicago’s Monteverde. Rich and fatty, well-seasoned and flavorful cured meat is actually the perfect choice for a delicious ragu. A traditional ragu Bolognese is made with fatty meats, which yield a sweeter sauce than what you get from leaner cuts. The high fat content of cured meats, as well as their high proportion of seasonings like salt and dried herbs, makes them the secret ingredient in this classic sauce. They add impactful flavor and luscious fat quickly and easily. And of course, using salami in your sauce is a great way to reduce food waste at home. 

First, pick your cured meats. A mixture of sweeter meats like prosciutto and country ham, deeply spiced soppressata and finocchiona, and extra fatty cuts like guanciale or pancetta make the ideal blend for a ragu Bolognese. Paired with a smaller portion of ground chuck, they add a balanced blend of flavor and texture, lending the quality of their seasoning and aging to the sauce in no time. 

Next, chop them up. Using a food processor, or a sharp knife and some patience, finely chop the larger pieces into very small bits. Finely chopping the meats before cooking allows them to fully integrate into the sauce, releasing their flavor and blending right in with the texture of the ground meat. 

Finally, cook them in batches. This allows each cut of cured meat to fully render, so they’ll brown properly, release their fat and seasonings into the fond, and nearly melt into the final sauce. Cooking the meats one after the other builds an incredible foundation of flavor in the pan before you finish off the sauce with aromatics, tomatoes, broth, and a generous splash of red wine for deglazing. A final flourish of creamy butter and red wine vinegar bring a luxurious silkiness and brightness to the sauce. And, there’s no need to finish with extra salt — the cured meats provide just enough to properly season the ragu. So the next time there’s extra salami on your cutting board, don’t toss it. Instead, turn it into tomorrow’s dinner. 

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