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Tailgating with Bolognese Sliders, the Five Star Sloppy Joe Makeover

by Angela Roberts on October 27, 2011

It’s time again for the Five Star Foodie Makeover, and to kick off Autumn, our theme is tailgating.

When I think of a tailgating party, I think of food that is hearty, mobile, easy to eat with one hand and a great accompaniment to beer. I knew immediately I wanted to transform an all American classic  by making over the Sloppy Joe into Italian Bolognese sliders.

At first, I was a little hesitant, wondering if bolognese sliders would count as a legitimate tailgating food. I’m not a sports fan and I’ve never been tailgating so I did a little tailgating recipe googling, and I. discovered I’m missing out. Tailgating is a lot more than wings and beer at the back of a car.Tailgaters take their food seriously and may prepare for days in advance.  Some tailgaters just tailgate and don’t even go into the stadium. They might host a tailgate party for up to 50 friends, many of whom also tailgate and it’s one big eating serious food party. Did I mention that the food is accompanied by large amounts of alcohol?  And all the while,  I was envisioning burgers on the back of pick up trucks.  And food and drink may not be the only pleasure. Jennie Steffens shows us how to design a gorgeous tailgate tablescape using  design savvy, her favorite recipes and team spirit over at the  Blender, a Williams Sonoma Blog that you must pop over and see. You might want to take a look at Jennie’s personal design blog Everyday Occasions if you love that kind of thing like I do.

Thus began my fantasy.

I would bring a rustic table covering,  my  new two-bite hand held apple pies (yet to be posted)  and a big pot of bolognese sauce, rolls and butter for toasting and a big bowl of tuscan kale salad.

This is not the first bolognese I’ve written about. I featured Marcella Hazan’s bolognese with my fresh pasta recipe. It was also delicious, perhaps a bit sweeter, as the recipe had more carrots and a lot more tomatoes.  This recipe is different in that it has sausage (which I increased) and pancetta, two flavor builders I think are just right for this event.

The results were beyond my expectations. I missed last month’s “cooking with wine” challenge as my blog was in maintenance mode, and this covers that too, because bolognese  is made with wine,  just one of the many ingredients that builds an incredible hearty and complex flavor to ground meat.

The  one thing an original  Sloppy Joe and my bolognese sliders have in common is finely ground meat, mostly beef with some tomato. The traditional Sloppy Joe meat is sweetened with brown sugar, not my favorite ingredient in savory food. On the other hand, bolognese is much richer,  as flavors are built layer by layer with a battuto of celery, onion and carrot, wine, pancetta, and tomato puree and  finished off with milk, which adds to its richness.

The test of a good slider is the tease factor. If after eating one, you have to have another and then another, you’ve got a good slider. These passed the tease test, so you might want to make a double batch if you are serving a large crowd.

Tell me, what is your favorite tailgating food or drink that meets the tease test?

Check 5 Star Foodie and Lazaro Cooks on Friday to see what everyone brought to their tailgating party.

Tailgating with Bolognese Sliders, the Five Star Sloppy Joe Makeover
Recipe type: Sandwich
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
(Adapted from La Cucina Italiana , October, 2009) an Italian take on an American tradition of Sloppy Joe’s.
  • 1 14-ounce can San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes in juice (or half large 28 ounce can)
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 celery rib, roughly cut
  • 1 small onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, roughly chopped
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided (3 for sauce, 1 for toasting rolls)
  • 2 links sweet Italian sausage, removed from casing
  • 2 ounces pancetta or bacon, finely chopped
  • 1½ pounds ground beef
  • ½ pound ground pork
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ¾ cup whole milk
  • freshly grated nutmeg
  • small water rolls
  1. Puree tomatoes until smooth. Set aside.
  2. Heat beef broth with tomato paste. Set aside.
  3. Make battuto. Chop together the celery, onion and carrots.
  4. Melt butter in large pot until frothy. Add vegetables, sausage and pancetta. Cook on low heat, until veggies are softened, not browned, about 25 minutes.
  5. Add beef, pork, and break up with wooden spoon. Cook 10 minutes. Do not brown.
  6. Add salt and pepper.
  7. Add wine, bring to boil until it is mostly evaporated, about 5 minutes.
  8. Add tomato puree and beef broth mixture and bay leaf.
  9. Cook for 2½ hours on simmering heat until liquid is evaporated.
  10. Add milk and cook for 30 more minutes.
  11. Add pinch of nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper.
  12. Brush rolls with butter. Grill until toasted golden brown.
  13. Spoon bolognese sauce on rolls.

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

bellini October 27, 2011 at 2:58 pm

These are a tease Angela. I am such a fan of the slider, is it White Castle we have to thank?


Valérie ( France ) October 27, 2011 at 6:30 pm

Tout cela est bien appétissant et beau
Je te souhaite une belle soirée


Joan Nova October 27, 2011 at 7:19 pm

I’m not a tailgater either but I’d go to yours…love the little sliders, the 2-bite apple pie and I can’t stop eating kale salad!!


Norma October 27, 2011 at 7:23 pm

Me tailgating, but these are looking good to me.


yummy supper October 27, 2011 at 8:59 pm

Angela, I’m feeling so unAmerican;)… I’ve never had a sloppy joe. I don’t know how I missed trying one, but it’s true. I must say, your Bolognese slider may just be the most delectable way to give it a try!


angela October 28, 2011 at 2:03 am

Erin, Sloppy Joe’s are almost a retro food now, but I loved them as a kid.


Simone October 27, 2011 at 9:18 pm

Well…. I have no idea what tailgating is although by the sound of your story it has to do with sports…. Your sloppy joe remakes however look delicious! I would gladly have one of those, even if it might finding out what tailgating is! :)


angela October 28, 2011 at 2:08 am

Simone, people party at the back of their cars with grills, etc. often elaborately in parking lots at stadiums. Lots of food and drink involved.


Evelyne@CheapEthnicEatz October 28, 2011 at 12:38 am

I just love how you write about building the flavors, it looks and sounds awesome. A sloppy Joe I would pass but gourmet version I would want seconds.


deana October 28, 2011 at 1:15 am

Something about this tailgate idea brings out food of my youth in my head… I thought about sloppy joes and then my head moved to ham… but not before thinking “why don’t I make those again>?” It’s been years and I loved them as a kid… probably because I made such a mess eating them. YOurs look delicious… can’t wait to try the recipe on a bun… great fun.


angela October 28, 2011 at 2:09 am

I should have mentioned the possible mess in this post. I remember the dripping sloppy Joe’s. All part of the experience.


5 Star Foodie October 28, 2011 at 2:35 am

I love the concept of your makeover! The bolognese sliders look adorable and I bet they taste fantastic!


Lori Lynn October 28, 2011 at 2:55 am

Angela – they sound amazing. Love the little autumny pics too.


Trix October 28, 2011 at 11:48 am

I can definitely see that this would pass my tease test, that’s the perfect name for it. These look fabulous.


Faith October 28, 2011 at 2:30 pm

These look delicious — they’re like the ultimate sloppy joes with a gourmet twist! Love how you served them as sliders…one of these would definitely leave me wanting more!


Lindsay@GirlFromScratch October 28, 2011 at 4:15 pm

As a cook who frequently entertains I love this recipe to use for appetizers. A spin on a classic! Thanks!


Vicki Bensinger October 28, 2011 at 9:59 pm

These sound wonderful. I love sloppy joe’s and this rendition looks fantastic. I must have missed this recipe in La Cucina Italiana. One of my favorite magazines. Perfect tailgating grub!


Tanantha October 28, 2011 at 10:39 pm

I’m not a fan of sport but I’m a fan of tailgate party! hahaha. I don’t care who’s playing. All i care is food and drink. I adore these sloppy joe and your take on these. All the flavors together sound delicious!


Lazaro October 29, 2011 at 3:34 am

Perfect. You can come to my tailgate anyday!

Great job.


Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella October 30, 2011 at 9:07 am

Oh my, that slider looks incredible! They’re sort of catching on here but none look as good as these! ;)


Marisa October 31, 2011 at 2:28 am

Very smart idea! This is like the perfect little 2 bite snack. And by the way, I love those little leaf toothpicks! Those are the cutest.


Sippitysup November 1, 2011 at 12:34 am

This moved me… GREG


Kristina November 11, 2011 at 3:12 am

I bet these were fantastic. I have fond memories of sloppy joes from school cafeteria lunches (they were one of the only good things) but these sound so much better. Personally, I’ve always thought the concept of the “slider” to be over-hyped, but in some cases (like this one,a party), they are the perfect format. Oh, and those little apple pies look adorable!


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