Just about ever cook has their own favorite ragu Bolognese recipe and I am not one to start a debate on what is, or is not, the classic recipe for this famous dish from Emilia- Romagna. Suffice it to say, they all have their merits within the scheme of ragu making, classic or not. However there are certain procedures and ingredients that make a ragu Bolognese a ragu Bolognese. It is not a red sauce, but rather a meat sauce with tomato playing a supporting role rather than the leading part. It is also a dish that is meant to be cooked slowly to develop a depth of flavors, an aroma that tantalizes, and a texture that generously glazes the pasta with hearty unctuousness for every bite.
My previous post on Saffritto makes the case for preparing this traditional Italian cook’s flavorful foundation base in advance, which is then included in the cooking of the ragu Bolognese. I encourage you to try it! It does add a distinctive undertone that the quick in the pan method in many Bolognese recipes misses. A little more effort, but the results are sublimely rewarding.
The addition of sauteed mushrooms to the ragu Bolognese is entirely optional, but they do add a nice complimentary taste bite to the finished dish.
A perfect dish for entertaining, prepared ahead and reheated while you boil the pasta! Served with a crisp green salad…bon santé!
Ragu Bolognese: makes 6-8 servings
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 6 medium size garlic cloves, chopped
- 2 oz pancetta, chopped
- 1 anchovy filet, chopped (optional)
- 1 cup soffritto
- 5 tablespoons Italian double concentrated tomato paste
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 1 pound lean ground pork (or veal)
- 1 ½ teaspoons flaky sea salt + more to taste
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
- 1 ¼ cup dry white wine
- 6 cups stock
- 1 cup milk, warmed
Pop the olive oil, garlic, pancetta, and anchovy filet (if using) into a small food processor and pulse until broken down into a course paste.
Heat a large sauté pan, or deep wide saucepan, over medium heat. Add the garlic pancetta mixture and saute, stirring continuously, until the fat has melted, about 5 minutes. Give the soffritto a good stir to incorporate the oil and add it to the pan and stir continuously until well combined. Make a well in the center of the pan and add the tomato paste. Stir continuously until the tomato paste caramelizes, about 2 minutes. Stir everything together and spread over the bottom of the pan. Add the ground beef and pork (or veal) and stir continually, turning the meat as it cooks, until the meat juices are released. Add the salt, pepper, and nutmeg and stir in until combined. Continue stirring until most of the meat juices have nearly evaporated. Add the wine and continue to stir until nearly evaporated.
Add 3 cups of the stock and lower the heat to medium low and simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally until the stock is nearly evaporated. Add 1 cup of stock, cover and continue to cook until the stock is nearly evaporated. If you find the liquid is evaporating to quickly lower the heat to low and remember to partially cover with a lid so the condensation from the steam on the lid will be incorporated back into the sauce as it simmers. Continue adding the stock a cup at a time until all the stock has been added and the sauce is thick and creamy. The total cooking time to this point should be about 2 hours.
Add the warmed milk and continue to cook, partially covered, until the sauce is again thick and creamy. Remove the sauce from the heat and carry on with cooking the pasta and completing the finishing steps, and then reheating the sauce for serving.
If you are not going to use the sauce immediately, set aside to cool completely before storing in the refrigerator, or for freezing.
If you are plan to add mushrooms to the ragu Bolognese they should be cooked separately and added to the Bolognese at the reheating stage just before serving.
Sauteed Mushrooms: (optional)
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 cups thinly sliced mushrooms
- ½ teaspoon flaky sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons dry white wine
Heat a saute pan over medium heat and add the olive oil and butter. Once hot add the sliced mushrooms, salt, and pepper, and saute, stirring continuously, until the juices released from the mushrooms is nearly evaporated. Add the wine and continue to saute until the wine has evaporated. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
For finishing and Serving:
- 12 oz tagliatelle, penne, or pasta of choice
- 1 cup of stock or pasta cooking water
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil Parmigiano-Regiano for grating
Bring a pot of water to a full boil, add salt, and pasta and cook until al dente.
While the pasta is cooking, reheat the ragu adding the stock, or pasta water, to the ragu until the sauce is the consistency you desire. Stir the mushrooms into the ragu at this point if using.
Drain the cooked pasta and add to the sauce, turn several times until the pasta is evenly coated. Add the finishing olive oil and continue to warm the sauce while turning the pasta until the pasta is steaming hot and the finishing olive oil has been emulsified into the sauce. Taste and add additional salt if needed.
Transfer the sauced pasta to individual pasta bowls and top each serving with any sauce remaining in the pan. Grate Parmigiano-Regiano lightly over each serving and serve.