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You’re full of Bolognese


Ragu Bolognese is practically the Holy Grail of sauces for Italian food lovers. This sauce is absolutely fabulous.  It’s very easy, but it is time consuming. Something to do to “pasta-time-away”. Often referred to as "Tagliatelle Bolognese" because it originated in Bologna, Italy and is often served with the tagliatelle noodle.

THIS IS NOT A STANDARD MEAT SAUCE. Unlike traditional meat sauce, Bolognese has a very small amount of tomato and absolutely NO garlic! It has a creamier texture and a deep richness that is just fabulous.

So, Let’s do this:

½ stick of butter

1 large onion, finely chopped

10 small carrots (or 3 large), finely diced

3 stalks of celery, finely chopped

Note:  I actually chop these ingredients in a food processor so they are nice and small.

2 to 3 pounds of meat--I do half ground pork and half ground beef chuck (Don’t obsess over exact amounts and use the beef with the highest fat content) Salt the meat before you throw it in the pot.

2 cups of whole milk (do not use cream)

Pinch of nutmeg

1 cup of white wine

1 cup of red wine

1 cup of beef stock

28-ounce can of whole San Marzano tomatoes—broken up with your hands.



Melt the butter in a large stockpot over medium heat and gently fry the onions, carrots and celery.  Do this for about 5 minutes until they are softened. (Easy)

Add the meat to the pot one handful at a time so you can break it up as you go along.  The meat does not actually ever get browned, but more along the lines of softened.  Cook the meat until you can no longer see any pink. (Still Easy)

Add the milk and nutmeg and cook at a simmer until it is completely absorbed.  The milk provides a creamier element and breaks down the meat to make it extremely tender. (This will take a solid 30 to 40 minutes). (Easy, but long)

Add the wine after the milk has completely absorbed.  Bring all of this to a boil and then reduce to a simmer until it is fully absorbed.  (this will take about 20 minutes). (Easy and a chance to drink some wine)

Add the San Marzano tomatoes (juice and all) and the beef stock.  Wait to adjust salt and pepper until this has all reduced.  This is what the sauce will look like at this point.  A little saucey slash soupy. (Almost done)



Cook the sauce at a very, very gentle simmer for 3 hours uncovered. (Yes, I said 3 hours---this is a must).  It is possible to shorten the time to 2 hours by increasing the heat, but you will really need to babysit it so it doesn't burn. Honestly---at the low simmer you can go about your business and just check on it periodically. 

The good news:  this will keep in the fridge for 3 days and it freezes very well.  Bolognese is even better the next day. When you rewarm the sauce it may be a little thick.  Simply add a little water (maybe a cup) or beef stock.  When it is completely finished your Bolognese will be thick and rich and taste amazing.  The finished product looks like this (I hope you can see the difference from the pic above, even though it isn't significant)




The pasta of choice is usually tagliatelle or pappardelle.  My family prefers it with rigatoni.  Basically, you need heartier pasta to handle the density of the sauce.


Photo credit:  Tagliatelle Bolognese: notquitenigella.com; Pappardelle Bolognese: seriouseats.com.