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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.
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 Tbsp butter
- 2 onions, peeled and very finely chopped to make 2 ½ cups
- 4 celery stalks, (tops and bottoms trimmed off and discarded,) finely chopped
- 3 carrots, peeled and finely chopped to make 2 cups
- 1 ½ lb ground beef
- 1 ½ lb veal shoulder, very finely minced OR 1 ½ lb ground veal
- 3 oz. pancetta, finely chopped
- 1 oz. dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in 1 cup boiling water (You will discard the mushrooms and use the broth)
- 1 cup dry red wine
- 1, 6 oz. can tomato paste
- 2 cups beef stock
- 1 cup mushroom broth from soaking the dried mushrooms
- Salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste
- ½ cup milk
- ½ cup cream
- Finely grated Parmesan to garnish
- In a large, heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven over medium-low heat, add oil and butter. Once butter has melted, stir in chopped onion, carrot and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally until very soft; about 30 minutes. Increase heat to medium high and add the meats. Stir, breaking ground meat into small bits, and sautéing until meats are browned. Add wine and stir for one minute. Add tomato paste and stir in well. Add stock and mushroom broth. Reduce heat to lowest setting and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 2 hours. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Scald milk for 30 seconds and add, with the cream to the pot. Partially cover pot and continue simmering 1 more hour, again stirring occasionally until sauce reaches your preferred thickness. Serve over your choice of pasta. NOTE: If sauce seems too liquid, continue simmering until it reduces. If sauce seems too thick, add a small amount of cooking stock or red wine to thin.
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