Forget about the bolognese sauce -ragu- for pasta or for pastitsio that you are familiar with. I already did a long ago; I wasn’t fond of the combination of pasta with minced meat since I was a kid, anyway. So, the first time I cooked the original Bolognese sauce was for stuffing lasagna; the result was simply amazing. The taste is unique, absolutely made with love; classic Bolognese sauce is incredibly flavourful, hearty, with rich addictive aroma, almost creamy in consistency and so satisfying. It is the answer to the question ‘why we love Italian food’.
There isn’t one and only recipe for salsa Bolognese, although as a signature Italian sauce, officially registered by the Academia Italiana della Cucina, the authentic preparation is more than serious in specifying not only the necessary ingredients but even the exact size of the cooking pan!
This is the recipe we make at home. Most of the times half the quantity disappears from the saucepan while still warm – everybody loves tasting a spoonful again and again 😉 No kidding, you must definitely try it. Tagliatelle is the best pasta to accompany Bolognese sauce with but any other preferably flat, broad pasta or short to hold the sauce within their shape will do.
Best bolognese sauce in town
Preparing: About 30 min., total cooking time about 3-4 hours. As the recipe requires a lot of cooking, it is wiser to multiply the amount of the ingredients and once it has cooled down to split it in doses and store it in the freezer for future use. The amounts given are doubled –I’m pretty sure that most of the sauce will vanish with just a spoonful in your kitchen too.
1kg minced beef meat (enough for 3kg sauce)
5-6 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
3 medium onions finely chopped (you may use the blender instantly – do not make puree)
5 tbsp. pancetta or unsmoked bacon finely chopped
3 sprigs of celery chopped
2-3 medium carrots finely chopped
3 (small) garlic cloves chopped or smashed
450ml red wine (original recipe calls for white wine but red enriches flavor)
3 cans of 400 g chopped plum tomatos in juice
3 tbsp. tomato paste (optional)
1-2 cinnamon sticks (optional)
6-8 grains of allspice or 1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. fresh thyme or dried
salt and freshly ground pepper
If you serve it with pasta
Fresh basil for garnish and grated Parmesan cheese to taste
Making the Bolognese sauce: Heat the olive oil and butter in a large saucepan. Add the onion, garlic, carrot and celery, and cook in low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring constantly; don’t let them change colour. Add the minced meat and pancetta and cook in medium heat until the meat changes colour. If small lumps form (they will), use a wooden spoon to break them down – you can also use a big fork or the tool for mashing potatoes (as in photo); it works perfectly.
Pour the wine, add the bay leaves, cinnamon and allspice or nutmeg, and stir until the wine evaporates. Pour the milk and continue cooking until that evaporates too.
Add the chopped tomato and tomato paste (if using) and thyme, season with salt and pepper. Stir and check seasoning. Lower the heat to minimum and simmer for at least 2-2.5 hours, without covering the pan (it mustn’t boil). Finally, double-check the salt and pepper and correct if needed.
Note: It’s important that the heat is at the lowest. I personally put a heat diffuser on the burner so that it makes the heat even weaker and I let it cook for 3 ½ – 4 hours. According to experts, with whom I totally agree after having done several experiments, this specific slow cooking gives the sauce the ultimate flavour.
Serving with pasta: Bolognese sauce goes better with tagliatelle and other flat broad pasta such as pappardelle, fettuccine etc. instead of spaghetti. Conchiglie and fusilli are also great choices as they hold more sauce because of their shape. Parmesan cheese is always served separately to be added at will.