Making Bolognese

What does one do on the first day of the new year? Embark on a bold, new project? Make resolutions? Begin a new exercise routine? If you’re me, indulging in a day off of work, you read for most of the day and decide to make Ragu alla Bolognese. I’ve been finishing up Michael Moss’s forthcoming book on the food industry, Salt, Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, and his tales of Oscar Meyer inventing Lunchables made me crave a hearty sauce.

I’ve made Bolognese before and had a good idea about the basics. I consulted Cook’s Illustrated and Mario Batali to make sure I was on track. Here’s what I did:

3-4 small carrots

2 celery stalks

1 medium onion

I roughly chopped these and then pulsed them in the food processor 6 to 7 times until they were in really tiny bits. You don’t want mash though, so don’t go overboard.

Olive oil

3 oz pancetta

I chopped this up too and pulsed in the food processor into a paste.

8 oz ground beef

8 oz ground pork

1 TBSP tomato paste

1 cup red wine

1 cup beef broth

1 cup chicken stock

1 28 oz can tomatoes

2-3 garlic cloves, peeled

Oregano, salt, and pepper to taste

1 cup milk–I used whole because I had it

I heated up some oil, about 1 TBSP, in a large dutch oven until it was almost smoking. I added the ground meats and the pancetta and browned it in two batches. Setting that aside, I added the ground mirepoix (carrots, celery, and onion) and softened them for a bit, about 20 minutes. After scooching some aside in the middle of the pan to make a hole, I added the tomato paste and let it cook for 5 minutes. Then I added the wine and let it simmer until it cooked down, another 5 minutes. I might have drunk some of the red wine too. After that you just have to add back the meat and the broths, canned tomatoes, the garlic cloves, salt & pepper, and some dried oregano. Get it to a slow simmer and wander off. Drink more of the red wine.

I checked on it periodically to make sure it was simmering and not boiling crazily. After about one and a half hours, I heated the milk up in a saucepan and added half to the sauce. Once it cooked into the sauce for 10 minutes, I added the second half.

You were probably wondering why I threw in whole garlic cloves, weren’t you? Those I fished out. They were wonderfully soft; I mashed them up and added them back to the ragu.I let it cook a bit longer but we were starving. I had some wonderful fusili pasta from Bella Ravioli in Medford (if  you live in the Boston/Cambridge area this place is amazing) so I cooked that up and served it in bowls warmed by pasta water, topped with parmesan. Yum!

Ragu all Bolognese


Things I would do differently next time–I didn’t do a good job of breaking up the meat as it browned. I’d make that happen. I would let the mirepoix cook longer, maybe 25 minutes. I think more tomato paste wouldn’t hurt. Now I’ve got lots of leftovers to eat for the week, never a bad thing.

2 thoughts on “Making Bolognese

  1. Lori

    Add some finely chopped chicken livers next time. Barbara Lynch does this in her Butcher Shop Bolognese recipe and it is amazing.


  2. Arnold Reynolds

    Update: If you have a lot of fresh tomatoes on hand, you can also make this sauce with fresh tomatoes for immediate eating or freezing, in order to preserve your tomatoes after the growing season. About 16 roma tomatoes will make about 1 cup of sauce. The tomatoes should be peeled and chopped before cooking. I usually eliminate the onion, tomato paste and wine, especially if I’m freezing the sauce, as I can add more flavors during reheating — but the garlic is essential. Fresh tomatoes usually require only 10 minutes of cooking to break down into a thick sauce.



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