Bolognese sauce is one of the most well known and loved Italian food worldwide. And for good reasons: it’s cheap to make, relatively easy to prepare, and, most of all, it tastes amazing.
However, despite or maybe because of its incredible success, the number of recipes, found on amateurs’ blogs and on celebrity chefs’ books, claiming to be the real Bolognese sauce is staggering. Probably, just 1 or 2 of them are close enough to the traditional recipe. Close, but still not there! To this day, I have not seen yet any recipe that would be able to sustain the claim to be the authentic or traditional one.
Bolognese sauce, or ragout -from the French word ragoûter, which means “to revive the appetite” – was originally intended as a festive meal served on its own (without pasta) to soldier and sailors. Today, Bolognese sauce is traditionally served with fresh egg tagliatelle, but it is also used to season other pasta, such as lasagne (with the addition of béchamel sauce), and the queen of peasant cuisine, polenta.
In 1982, the Bologna’s delegation of the Italian Academy of Cuisine, after years of research consulting old recipe books, hundreds of families, cooks, and sfogline (pasta makers who specialise in pulling paper thin pasta sheets by hand), published and registered with the Bologna chamber of commerce the official recipe for Bolognese sauce. This was meant to preserve the cultural heritage and the historical prestige of the dish.
And this is the one I give you today. The only and the original.
Of course, there are variations. For instance, I don’t use the pancetta, and I prefer to add red wine. I also let it cook for far longer than 2 hours: this because I am from Napoli, and I am used to ragoûts cooked for ages (soon I will publish the recipe for the Neapolitan ragoût!). Variations are a natural occurrence, as we all modify a recipe to adapt it to our tastes and the ingredients we have a hand. However, when we publish a recipe and claim that it’s the real deal, we need to be careful. We Italian have gone a long way to protect our culinary traditions: Bolognese sauce is not the only recipe that has been registered with the local chamber of commerce!
Ingredients for 6 portions:
300 gr of minced beef meat (20% fat)
150 gr unsmoked pancetta
50 gr of brown or pink onion
50 gr celery
50 gr carrot
300 gr of pelati OR tomato passata OR
5 tbsps. of double tomato concentrate
2oo ml of white wine
200 ml of milk
Up to 200ml of vegetable stock
1 tbsp. tomato concentrate
2 tbsp. crème fraiche (optional)
50 gr of butter or 3 tbsps. of extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
- To prepare your Bolognese sauce, start by finely chop the pancetta, put it in a large, thick-bottomed, casserole – ideally cast iron, or the traditional earthenware casserole (click here to buy), and render it over slow heat for about 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, finely chop the vegetables. Add the oil OR the butter to the casserole, and stir in the chopped vegetables. Cook on a low heat until they become soft and transparent (about 10 minutes). Be careful that the onion doesn’t turn brown.
- Add the minced meat, raise the heat to medium, and let it brown, stirring often. Pour in the wine, and keep stirring until it has completely evaporated.
- Stir the tomatoes (either pelati OR passata. However, the use of pelati is recommended for ragoûts), cover the casserole, and cook for about 2 hours. Add a ladleful of vegetable stock when the bolognese sauce starts to dry up.
- About 15-20 minutes before taking your Bolognese sauce off the heat, add the milk and season to taste. When the ragout is ready, take it off the heat and stir in the crème fraiche, which is required if using the Bolognese sauce with dried pasta. If using fresh pasta, the use of cream is facultative.
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