Bison Bolognese with Roasted Butternut Squash

Monday, 03 Oct 2011

Well, it’s been a couple of years since my last post, but I figured that since I still cook stuff, I might as well post it every so often.  Last night’s dinner was my first time cooking buffalo.  It looked just like lean ground beef, but I could tell a slight difference in the smell while it was raw and cooking.  It smelled just a little “wilder” (I wouldn’t go so far as to give it the negative connotation of “gamey”) and mellowed out as it cooked with onions, garlic, carrots, celery, tomatoes and wine.  I served the bolognese over fettuccine with a little bit of freshly grated pecorino romano.  We also had one of my favorite sides, which I make about once a week:  roasted butternut squash. If you like going a little lower carb at dinner, which we frequently do, you can serve the bolognese over the butternut squash instead of with pasta.

First, the bolognese.  I used the following recipe as a basis and improvised using the ingredients I had on hand: The perfect bolognese.  My version amounted to this:

1/4 c. olive oil (+/- to taste)

1 large onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, crushed

2 carrots, chopped

Stick of celery, chopped

1lb ground bison

1/2 cup dry white wine

1/4 cup chicken broth

1 14oz. can whole tomatoes, chopped, with juice

1 small can tomato paste

salt and freshly ground black pepper

herbs and seasonings to taste, such as oregano and bay leaves

1 pkg. fettuccine

freshly grated pecorino romano cheese, to serve

1. Heat several tablespoons of oil in large pan and saute onions and garlic over medium-high until soft.  If you want a kick of spice, add a shake or two of crushed red peppers at this stage.  Add meat, season with salt and pepper. Cook until browned. Remove meat/onion mixture from pan into bowl.

2.  Add more oil and add carrots and celery.  Saute for several minutes, then add wine and broth.  Reduce heat to medium, cover and simmer for approximately 10 minutes, or until carrots begin to soften.

3.  Add tomato paste and chopped tomatoes with juice, and add meat/onion mixture to pan.  Add any desired herbs or seasonings, such as oregano or bay leaves, at this stage.  Mix well.  Reduce to a simmer.  Cook covered for approximately 45-60 minutes, or until sauce thickens and flavors meld together.

4. While bolognese sauce is cooking, cook pasta according to directions and grate cheese for serving.

And now for the roasted butternut squash.  We love having this for dinner because it’s so filling, satisfying, and healthy comfort food.  For this recipe, I used a huge organic butternut squash (probably at least 2.5 pounds) so we would have leftovers.


1 large butternut squash

olive oil — enough to coat cut up squash pieces

1 tablespoon melted butter

freshly ground salt and pepper to taste


1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Wash, peel and cut the squash into uniform chunks.  I usually go for 3/4″ to 1″ dice.

2.  In a large bowl, toss the cut up squash with olive oil, melted butter, salt and pepper.  This can be done on your baking sheet if you want fewer dirty dishes.  I kept the seasonings in this recipe very basic since it would be served with bolognese sauce, but as a stand-alone dish, roasted butternut squash is great seasoned with fresh sage or paprika and chile powder for a kick.

3.  Spread the squash in one layer onto a large baking pan.  You can line the pan with foil for easier clean up.  Bake for 30-40 minutes, turning once at the halfway point, and broiling on high for the last 4-5 minutes.

Check the squash throughout the cooking process — the cooking time will depend on the ripeness of the squash.  Squash is ready when it is tender when stabbed with a fork.  I finish it by broiling to get a nice brown crispness on the outside — it really adds to the texture.

So, that’s it!  This was a great meal for our first cool, fall-ish weekend here in DC, and now we have lots of leftovers for the week.









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