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Bolognese Sauce

Updated February 23, 2016
This image courtesy of Mark T. Shapiro

Years ago I lived in a tiny bedsitter in the north London district of Muswell Hill, where I recall subsisting mostly on risotto, Leicester cheese, Branston pickle and Jacob’s Cream Crackers. But once a week, the young Welsh newlywed who lived down the hall would make her husband’s favorite — “spag bol,” as they short-form it in England — and occasionally she would invite me in for a taste. At the time I thought it delicious, due in large part, no doubt, to my growling turn. Many years later in Italy I tasted the real thing and learned that, in fact, the Bolognese would never dream of eating this meaty sauce with spaghetti — preferring tagliatelle, maccheroni, fettuccine or rigatoni. I like it best with long-cut ziti, but would enjoy it just as much simply spooned onto good bread! Use this sauce to make the world’s greatest lasagna. This recipe produces a rich, meaty, almost dry preparation with colorful flecks of carrot and a flavor that can only result from good red wine and a lengthy cooking time. Although some versions of this dish call for the addition of tomatoes, I prefer to use a small amount of good tomato paste.

Serves6

CostModerate

Moderate

Total Timeunder 4 hours

Kid FriendlyYes

OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Family Get-together

Recipe Coursemain course

Dietary Considerationegg-free, peanut free, soy free

Mealdinner

Taste and Texturecheesy, garlicky, meaty, rich, savory, spiced, winey

Type of Dishdry pasta, pasta, pasta sauce

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup (50 mL) olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 1 carrot, finely diced
  • 2 stalks celery, finely diced
  • 12 oz (375 g) extra lean ground beef
  • 12 oz (375 g) pork loin, finely chopped or lean ground pork
  • 4 oz (125 g) pancetta, finely chopped
  • 3 plump fresh chicken livers, washed, trimmed and finely chopped
  • Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 cup (250 mL) red wine
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) tomato paste
  • ½ tsp (2 mL) salt
  • ¼ tsp (1 mL) freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) coarse salt
  • 1 lb (500 g) tagliatelle, maccheroni or fettuccine
  • 1 cup (250 mL) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Instructions

  1. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and onion; cook for 3 minutes or until softened. Stir in carrot and celery; cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes or until vegetables are softened.

  2. Add beef, pork, pancetta, chicken livers and nutmeg; cook, stirring to break up meat, for 10 minutes or until meat is browned. Stir in red wine. Bring to a boil; cook for 5 minutes. Stir together tomato paste and ½ cup (125 mL) warm water; stir into meat mixture. Return to a boil, reduce heat to low and stir in salt and pepper. Cover and cook for 1 ½ to 2 hours, stirring occasionally, or until meat is very tender. If ragù appears too dry as it cooks, add a little more water or wine.

  3. When ragù is almost finished, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Stir in coarse salt. Cook pasta until tender but firm; drain and transfer to a warmed serving bowl. Pour ragù over pasta; toss to coat. Serve immediately, sprinkled with Parmigiano-Reggiano.

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