Bolognese sauce is a beloved and ethereal recipe, but is sadly all too often instead a deviant monstrosity oozing up from the darkest shadows of the lowest pit of Hades (aka Olive Garden) to bear final witness that the culinary apocalypse has indeed descended upon us.
Citizens – we all deserve better than that!
As such, I present to you my version of the true recipe, which is anything but low calorie (the city of Bologna is known as “Bologna the Fat” in Italy with good reason!) and hearkens back to the early Middle Ages when spices like nutmeg (worth their literal weight in gold!) were used in Bolognese dishes to show how wealthy the city had become. I offer profound thanks to the Maestro chef Arthur Schwartz for his suggestions that improved the final version of this recipe!
The true “authentic” recipe for ragù (sauce) alla Bolognese is locked in a vault in Bologna – my recipe is based on it, see the orignial here. Honor the true recipe from Italty and serve this only over Tagliatelle pasta – NOT spaghetti. That said, you can of course serve it over whatever pasta you want, but know that Italians worldwide are making a very rude gesture at you from afar. 😉
This recipe will take all of a Sunday afternoon to make, as it has been made in so many Italian and Italian-American kitchens by nonnas (grandmas) over so many years. Be honored that you join their ranks as you and your family enjoy this sauce of sauces! 😀
Battle on – The Generalissimo
1 tbsp lard (or use unsalted butter)
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 lb ground skirt steak
⅔ lb ground quality lean pork meat (chuck/shoulder or loin)
¼ lb pork belly (skinned), ground
¼ lb pancetta, ground
1 medium onion, 1 carrot and 1 celery stalk – all finely chopped
⅔ cup red wine
20 oz Pelati tomatoes crushed or run through a food mill – buy them here
2 sage leaves
1 bay leaf
a pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
½ cup minced fresh parsley leaves
beef stock (use low-salt if canned)
kosher salt to taste
⅓ cup cream
Freshly grated parmesan
Heat oil and butter in a heavy, bottomed pot and fry ground pork belly/pancetta about 3-4 minutes.
Add vegetables and fry for about 10 minutes until they start to soften and color a bit, scraping the bottom of the pan occasionally.
Add the remaining ground meat, breaking it up with a fork and cook until it’s browned all over (5-10 minutes) and all the liquid that the meat releases is evaporated.
Add red wine, stir and let the liquid reduce for 2-3 minutes or until you no longer smell alcohol.
Add tomato sauce, sage, bay leaf, nutmeg, salt and cover the meat with some beef stock.
Partially cover with a lid and simmer ragù for at least 4 hours (6 is better), stirring occasionally (about every 90 minutes). At hour 4, skim off all the fat and put some back into the sauce (as much as you think is needed – no more than ¼ of the total should be needed).
During that time, if you see that the sauce is drying out beyond acceptable levels, add some stock (not at the end of the cooking time though!). Stir in cream, minced parsley and ¼ cup of freshly-grated parmesan during the last 15 minutes of cooking.
Serve over tagliatelle for the true Bolognese experience! Cook the tagliatelle in plenty of boiling salted water. Drain and divide between plates. Sprinkle a little parmesan over the pasta before adding a good ladleful of the sauce. Finish with a further scattering of cheese and a twist of black pepper.