This post is all about the basics. I’m a passionate fan of a certain slow-cooked, flavor packed meat and tomato sauce that originates in Italy. It might surprise you to know that you’ve probably ordered bolognese in a restaurant, only to have a quicker (and therefore less flavorful) version passed off as the real thing. You see, many people are confused about the difference between a ragu and a bolognese. A bolognese is a type of ragu, but not all ragus are bolognese. In America we often offer bolognese over spaghetti, but in Bologna, the region the dish hails from, it is served over tagliatelle, or used as the basis (along with a white sauce) of Italian lasagna. A proper ragu alla bolognese simmers for a minimum of three hours and has layers of flavor cooked in. I have adapted my recipe from Marcella Hazan’s Classics of Essential Italian Cooking, one of my top three favorite cookbooks. In doing some research on the subject I am given to understand that there are many variations on this pasta sauce; the only constant is that it must respect the “spirit of the region”. I cannot be certain of what that means, but I’m sure you’re going to love this rich, sumptuous pasta sauce.
What tweaks do you have when making bolognese sauce?
Makes enough to cover 1 ½ lbs of pasta
1 pound minced beef, with a 20/80 fat-to-lean content
2 ½ cups chopped stewed tomatoes, in juice or crushed tomatoes
½ cup chopped onion
⅔ cup chopped celery
⅔ cup chopped carrots
3 Tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 cup milk
1 cup dry white wine
a small pinch nutmeg (about ¼ teaspoon)
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste
In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and add olive oil.
Add onions, and cook for 2 minutes, then add celery and carrots and a small amount of salt and pepper. Cook for about 4 minutes, or until carrots have started to become tender.
Add minced beef, more salt and more pepper and cook until browned, about 15 - 20 minutes.
Reduce heat slightly and add milk and nutmeg, stirring frequently, until it has been cooked into the meat (about 15 minutes).
Add wine and simmer until wine has been absorbed into the meat, about 25 - 30 minutes.
Add tomatoes. Turn heat down to the lowest possible setting. Simmer on the laziest boil for 3 to 4 hours, adding water 1/2 cup at a time if sauce dries out. Remove from heat and serve over pasta of choice.