In Italy -- especially in Bologna, the capital of Emilia-Romagna -- there are probably as many recipes for Bolognese pasta sauce (they call it ragu) as there are cooks who make it. And, in fact, even one person's recipe will fluctuate wildly, depending upon what the cook has on hand, as many Bolognese sauces incorporate leftovers. It's not unusual to toss leftover cooked chicken or meats into the ragu. And, for example, some cooks include cream in their ragu, others don't. So, don't feel you need to be constrained by one recipe or another. Experiment and create your own.
This is a good, all-purpose Bolognese sauce for pasta. I like to use large types of pasta with Bolognese, so the rich, hearty sauce has an equally hearty pasta to complement it: pappardelle, bucatini, fettuccine, large shells, orecchiette, etc. Also, I prefer to buy whole cuts of meat, such as beef chuck and pork shoulder, and grind it myself for my ragu. It's usually cheaper than purchasing pre-ground meat and the quality is better.
3 Tbs. olive oil
1 medium carrot, minced
2 celery sticks, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium onion, minced
3/4 lb. ground beef
3/4 lb. ground pork or veal
1/2 lb. bacon or pancetta, diced
1/2 cup red wine
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
5-6 cups of fresh tomato sauce or 2 28-oz. cans Italian-style plum tomatoes with their juices or crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup cream
salt & pepper, to taste
red-chili flakes (optional)
1 lb. dried pasta (the pasta used here is called gomitoni)
In a large pot over medium heat, heat the olive oil and saute the carrots, celery, garlic and onion until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Don't allow the onions and garlic to brown.
Add all of the ground meats to the pot, increase the heat to medium-high, and cook until lightly browned, about 10 minutes.
Add the tomato paste, wine and thyme, stir well and bring to a boil.
Next, add the tomatoes and bring back to the boil. When the sauce reaches the boiling point, lower the heat and allow it to simmer on medium-low, uncovered, for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
Near the end of the hour of cooking the sauce, cook your pasta just to al dente, according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
Add the cream to the ragu and allow to simmer a few minutes, just to heat the cream through. Stir well. The cream will give the ragu an orange hue and thicken it a bit.
Add salt and pepper to taste. I also like to add a couple of pinches of red-pepper flakes, but that's entirely optional and not very traditional.
Toss the pasta with Bolognese sauce and serve alongside a green salad or veggies. Top the Bolognese with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, if you'd like.
The pasta Bolognese here is pictured with a Caprese salad.
Photos by Ted Scheffler