Iconic in the world of pasta sauces is Bolognese.
Ragù alla bolognese (or simply ragu) in Italian, this classic meat sauce is most likely people are thinking of when they think of ‘spaghetti’ sauce. There are many variations but this is the most common approach.
For convenience I usually use minced beef I get from the supermarket but it you want to really do Bolognese right you will need to go to a butcher and have some chuck steak rough ground so it’s still quite chunky. Make sure there is a good amount of marbling in the meat so that you get the best flavor. If you are using ground beef from the store try to get the lower priced cut instead of the ‘premier’ or ‘extra lean’ offerings.
The recipe takes about 3 1/2 hours but most of the time it’s just simmering with the occasional stirring so you won’t have to be actively working on it most of the time.
Yield 2-3 servings
- 1/3 cup chopped carrots
- 1/3 cup chopped celery
- 2/3 cup chopped onion
- 1/3 cup chopped mushrooms
- 3/4 cup dry red wine
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 400 g (14 oz) can Italian (Roma) tomatoes, whole
- 1 Tbl olive oil
- 1 Tbl butter
- Assorted fresh herbs (I use 1 Tbl parsley, 1 tsp thyme and 1 tsp rosemary)
- 1 tsp brown sugar (optional)
- all purpose seasoning or salt and pepper to taste
- Your choice of cooked pasta
Add the oil and butter to a large saucepan and let the butter melt over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrots, celery, salt and pepper and sauté stirring often until the carrots start to caramelize, about 15-20 minutes. Add the beef and mushrooms and increase the temperature slightly. Cook the beef until well browned. You can add garlic when you add the meat and mushrooms but traditionally it is served without it.
Reduce the heat to medium and add the wine. Cook and stir occasionally until the wine is almost completely gone. Then add the milk, reduce the heat slightly, and simmer the mixture gently until the milk is virtually gone. The fat from the milk will coat the beef and help protect it from the acid of the tomato and add creaminess to the Bolognese.
Add the can of tomatoes and using the back of your stirring spoon crush them up against the sides until they are well mashed. Add the herbs (and sugar if desired), cover and simmer over very low heat 2 hours stirring occasionally. Uncover and continue cooking another 1/2 hour. Keep an eye on the moisture level – if the Bolognese gets too dry add some water or wine. You can cut the cooking time if you want but try to simmer at least 1 hour to let all the flavors blend and the beef (especially if using custom ground chuck) to become super tender. Just before serving swirl in another 1 Tbl of butter for extra richness.
Serve over pasta of your choice (the classic choice being spaghetti) and top with Parmesan cheese if desired. Serve along side crusty bread and a nice glass of the same wine you used in the cooking (since I’m sure you used a nice one).
Deliziosi spaghetti alla bolognese – meravigliosi!