A traditional Italian sauce with so many different versions and oh so good on top of pasta and garnished with Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano. It epitomizes cooking in Bologna, Italy and is a meat-based sauce where garlic and basil are usually absent. Often just seasoned with salt and pepper, grated nutmeg and occasionally a bay leaf. Tagliatelle is the preferred pasta but any flat pasta will work such as fettucine or pappardelle. Tube shapes are also acceptable such as rigatoni or penne.
It is a very complex sauce involving different cooking techniques. Differences can include which meat to use and how much, what fats to use such as butter or oil or maybe a combination of the two, form of the tomatoes, type of cooking liquids such as water or milk, white or red wine and when they are added.
I have provided my own version by combining recipes from a few of my Italian cookbooks by Marcella Hazan, Giada De Laurentiis, Fabio Vivani and Buddy Balastro. Such fantastic Italian chefs!
Ragu Alla Bolognese
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter or use a mixture of oil and butter
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
- 2 medium celery stalks, trimmed and diced
- 1/2 lb. ground beef chuck
- 1/2 lb. ground veal
- 1/2 lb. ground pork
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1/2 to 1 cup dry white wine
- 1 (28 oz.) can crushed San Marzano tomatoes
- 1 cup water or for more richness use whole milk
- 1 bay leaf (optional – I did add)
- whole nutmeg, for grating
- Parmesan rind or two (optional)
- Parmesan or Pecorino to garnish (serve more on the side)
Mince the onions, carrots and celery in a food processor.
Heat a deep skillet over medium heat; add the butter or a combination of butter and oil and cook the onions, carrots and celery. Lower the heat and cook the veggies until very soft, around 10 minutes.
Next, add the meat you are using. Break up the meat with a potato masher (this works really well) and cook until you can no longer see any pink, for about 10 to 15 minutes. Pour in the wine, raise the heat and bring to a boil. Boil until the mixture is reduced by half, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes, water or milk and bay leaf if using. Season with salt and pepper. Add a parmesan rind or two if desired.
Let the sauce simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until nicely thickened, about 3 hours. Add more water if needed; just be sure the water is gone at the end. Adjust the salt and pepper if needed. Grate some nutmeg into the sauce and stir.
Serve the Bolognese with tagliatelle or pappardelle (I used this) or rigatoni. Top with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano as some prefer to use.
Comment: This version of mine was very good but next time I will try using whole milk instead of water and use a cup of white wine instead of 1/2 cup. Just curious as many of the recipes preferred to use milk.
Recipe by CookingWithAuntJuju.com