Recipes

Rice Cake Bolognese

Slow-cooked to savory perfection, this saucy dish is a satisfyingly chewy Italian-meets-Taiwanese mash-up.

  • Serves

    4 servings

  • Cook

    4 hours

REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION FROM FIRST GENERATION: RECIPES FROM MY TAIWANESE-AMERICAN HOME BY FRANKIE GAW. PHOTOGRAPHY BY FRANKLIN GAW COPYRIGHT 2022. PUBLISHED BY TEN SPEED PRESS, AN IMPRINT OF PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE.

By Frankie Gaw


Published on October 27, 2022

When cookbook author Frankie Gaw made Marcella Hazan’s Bolognese recipe for the first time, he discovered pure bliss—an expression of beef and tomato completely transformed after a “lazy simmer,” as she liked to say. Tasting Hazan’s slow-cooked dish also reminded Gaw of his Taiwanese grandma’s fragrant simmered pork sauces poured over fresh noodles or rice. Inspired by Hazan and his grandmother, this rice cake Bolognese recipe highlights the commonalities between different cultures and is a love letter to both Italian and Taiwanese tradition. Look for packaged rice cakes in the refrigerated section of your local Asian grocery store. Gaw prefers to use medium-lean ground beef and pork—sometimes labeled 80/20 percent—for this dish, but any good-quality ground meat will work.

Reprinted with permission from First Generation: Recipes from My Taiwanese-American Home by Frankie Gaw. Photography by Franklin Gaw copyright 2022. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

Adapted from First Generation: Recipes from My Taiwanese-American Home by Frankie Gaw. Photography by Franklin Gaw copyright 2022. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

Ingredients

  • 24 oz. oval-shaped packaged rice cakes (not dried)
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 yellow onions, finely chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, finely chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 2 scallions, green and white parts, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp. finely chopped ginger
  • ½ lb. ground beef
  • ½ lb. ground pork
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • ¼ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 cup white wine
  • One 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes with juice
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 small cinnamon stick
  • 2 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Finely grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
  • Torn basil leaves (optional)

Instructions

Step 1

To a large bowl, add the rice cakes and cover with 1 inch of cold water. Set aside at room temperature for 3 hours, or up to 12 hours in the refrigerator.

Step 2

Meanwhile, make the Bolognese: To a large pot over medium heat, add the olive oil. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the onions, carrots, celery, scallions, garlic, and ginger, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions just begin to turn translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the ground beef and pork and cook, stirring and breaking up the chunks of meat, until the beef has browned, about 7 minutes. Stir in the milk and continue cooking until it has evaporated, 10–12 minutes. Add the nutmeg followed by the white wine and continue cooking until the wine has nearly evaporated, 8–10 minutes. Add the tomatoes, bay leaves, cinnamon stick, soy sauce, and black pepper, then turn the heat up to medium-high; bring the Bolognese just up to a boil, then turn the heat down to a gentle simmer and cook until the sauce has thickened, about 3 hours.

Step 3

Drain the rice cakes and add them to the pot; turn the heat up to medium and cook, stirring continuously, until the rice cakes are soft and cooked through, about 6 minutes. Divide among four bowls, sprinkle with Parmesan and fresh basil if desired, and serve hot.

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