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.
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!
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.