Known in Italy as “ragù alla Bolognese” this rich meat sauce actually has very little tomato in the sauce–a surprise to many American home cooks. The deeply satisfying flavors come from long, slow cooking of the vegetables and meats. First referenced in a cookbook by Pellegrino Artusi in 1891, the original recipe called for lean veal, pancetta, onion and carrot cooked in butter, plus mushrooms, broth and a ½ glass of cream which was added at the end. Evolved over the decades to include a few other ingredients—most notably tomato paste, the sauce has become a favorite world-wide.
We hewed pretty closely to the original with our Bolognese. To make it, you’ll begin with soffritto (from the Italian soffrigere, “to sauté”) a trio of very finely chopped carrot, onion and celery. Once the vegetables are cooked tender, you’ll add ground beef, finely minced (or ground) veal and pancetta, plus stock, red wine, soaked-mushroom liquid and tomato paste and let the whole mixture simmer over very low heat for a good two hours. Once the sauce has reduced down, you’ll scald the milk and stir in with the cream and simmer again for another hour.
Although traditionally served over tagliatelle, we like Bolognese spooned over our fresh-made gnocchi, with finely grated Parmesan cheese over all.