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story.lead_photo.caption Pasta with a quick-to-prepare bolognese sauce is perfect for busy school nights. (Gretchen McKay/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/TNS)

School is soon back in session, which means so long to summer's more leisurely schedules.

I don't have small children anymore, but I remember what it was like trying to get dinner on the table after work, while also chauffeuring children to sports practices, guitar lessons, shopping for school project supplies and any other number of school activities. And don't forget about homework, which always seemed to be spread out on the kitchen table when it was time to eat.

I also remember the best school night meals were those that could be prepared with little effort. This pasta recipe fits the bill. It comes together in about a half-hour and because it features pasta, it's kid-friendly.

I made it with the last offerings of my summer garden and meat I had in the freezer. You can substitute chopped or crushed canned tomatoes for fresh and it still will taste great.

Bucatini is always my pasta of choice, but bolognese (meat sauce) is traditionally served on tagliatelle or pappardelle because thicker and heavier pastas collect more sauce. I served the pasta with the sauce on top but you also can stir it right into the pan, adding a little pasta water, if needed, to thin the sauce to your liking.



Makes: 6-8 servings

3 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 yellow onion, diced

1/4 cup chopped cutting celery

1 carrot, peeled and diced

1 pound 80/20 ground beef

1/2 pound sweet Italian sausage

2 garlic cloves minced

Salt and pepper

Red pepper flakes

2 cups cherry tomatoes

1 or 2 tablespoons tomato paste

1/4 cup dry red wine

1 pound pasta

Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

Chopped parsley or basil, for garnish

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.

Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large Dutch oven or saucepan. Add onion, celery and carrot and cook for 1 minute.

Add beef and sausage, and cook, breaking it up with a fork or spoon, until it is no longer pink, about 5-6 minutes.

Add garlic to pot and season generously with salt and pepper. If you like, add a pinch of two of red pepper flakes, and stir to combine.

Stir in cherry tomatoes, tomato paste and red wine. Cook on medium heat until tomatoes break down and the sauce starts to thicken, about 15-20 minutes. (I use a potato masher to help the tomatoes along.)

Meanwhile, add the pasta to boiling water and cook until tender but still firm. Drain the pasta, reserving about 1 cup of pasta water for thinning the sauce.

Taste bolognese and season with additional salt, pepper or red pepper flakes, if necessary. Thin with reserved pasta water if it's too thick.

Serve pasta sauce on top of cooked pasta, garnished with grated Parmesan and chopped parsley or basil.

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