Ragu alla Bolognese was one of the first dishes I learnt to make when I first moved to Italy back in 2002. There was something oddly familiar and comforting about the recipe. Probably because most cultures (if they aren’t vegetarian) have some sort of dish that requires that you cook meat on low heat for a long period of time.
Plus, even though this dish does take at least two hours from start to finish. It’s really easy to make. Once you get the pot going, you can almost forget it. All you have to do is check on it from time to time to ensure it doesn’t burn. I think it’s perfect dish to make over the weekend, while you are doing other things around the house.
And while the ingredients are technically cooked early on in the process, the flavors really do change and develop when left to simmer.
Don’t believe me? Go ahead and try the meat once cooked, and then again after about an hour and then of course when done. Let me know if you can tell the difference in the comments below.
Italians can be pretty picky when it comes to food. So much so that there’s an association that authenticates recipes, ensuring that they are true to tradition. You can find their recipe for ragu alla Bolognese here.
Like all things passed down from generation, each family has their own slight tweak on how they do things. (My recipe is a slight tweak too from the associations version.) That said, it’s generally acknowledge that a real Bolognese has to have a mixture of pork and beef. And it is generally served with a hearty pasta that can ‘take’ the sauce like tagliatelle (not spaghetti).
Also note. Bolognese is a meat sauce. Meaning the authentic version has lots of meat and very little tomatoes, unlike how many people prepare it in the States or I guess the rest of the world. Now if you like it with lots of tomatoes, by all means go for it, it just wouldn’t technically be called “Bolognese”.
I hope you guys try and love this recipe from Emilia Romagna. I’m looking forward to hearing what you think in the comments box below.
- xo, Thea
Authentic Ragu alla Bolognese
Total Cook Time: 2.5 hours
1 large onion, very finely chopped
1 large carrot, very finely chopped
1 large rib of celery, very finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced*
1 lb ground beef
1/4 lb bacon, chopped
3 tbsp olive oil
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup red wine
3/4 cup tomato puree
1 fresh bay leaf (or 2 dried bay leaves)
1 tsp salt (approx)*
1/2 tsp black pepper (approx)*
water (or low sodium beef broth) as needed
1. In a large pot add olive oil, onions, carrots, and celery and a pinch of salt. Heat over medium low heat for about 10 - 15 minutes, until vegetables are relatively soft.
2. Add ground beef, bacon, and minced garlic to pot. Raise heat to medium high and cook meat for about another 10 - 15 minutes until meat is well browned and cooked through. As it cooks, use a fork or back of spoon to break up pieces of meat and fully incorporate vegetables into the mixture.
3. Add red wine to meat mixture. Cook until all wine has evaporated out.
4. Stir in tomato puree, bay leaf, salt and pepper. (If you are unsure about the amount of S&P add less… As mom says, you can (almost) always add salt but you can't take it out). Let simmer on low with a lid for approx. 60 minutes. Check on pot from time to time, stirring it to make sure it doesn't stick. Add a little water or broth (1/4 - 1/3 cup at a time) if it looks dried out, never too much at a time because it would then boil and change the taste.
5. Add milk and cook for about another hour.
6. Remove bay leaf. Add salt and pepper if needed.
Serve with tagliatelle cooked according to package instructions or use to make lasagna alla bolognese. Add a bit of grated parmesan cheese to taste.
*American/English garlic tends to be less fragrant than the garlic you can buy in Italy, so feel free to add an extra clove or two to the recipe.