I’ve been told a bolognese cannot be called a bolognese at all and that a true and authentic bolognese is actually called tagliatelle al ragù because Italian chefs insist that it should be served with a flat pasta rather than thin spaghetti because the meat clings to it better…AND like all ragùs, it’s characterized by its long, slow cooking, which means it must simmer for at least __ hours and can or cannot have tomato/milk/only one type of meat in it. That last part is debatable. But the great thing about cooking is, that in your kitchen, you can cook things the way you like them best!
As for me, and my eagerness to find yet another bolognese of my dreams, I’ve decided to try an interpretation of “real deal”. Real deal according to my recipe which is a slight variation of the original recipe according to the Italian Academy of Cuisine.
Apparently, an authentic bolognese is nothing like the one my mother made when I was growing up. Rather than what seemed like a cart full of tomatoes, a couple onions, all-too-fatty ground beef and Italian seasoning, a true bolognese contains no tomato sauce — rather just enough fresh tomatoes, meaning very little (or a tad tomato paste), only there to add a hint of sweetness — uses two types of meat, a lavish glug of vino rosso or bianco, is simmered in milk to mellow out the acidity of the tomatoes, and contains no spices…just an equal portion of onion, celery and carrots. What makes it epic though is the slow simmering — for at least an hour, preferably 2, 3 or 4 — somehow necessary to develop a complex flavor and velvety texture. Although simple, with all this time, best make lots ’cause this sauce also freezes beautifully.
Well, I broke one rule. I used ground veal, but go ahead, lean ground beef will also do. Don’t forget the pancetta though, it adds a beautiful smoky taste.
So it is my new favorite bolognese? I don’t kiss and tell. Try it for yourself and let me know what you think!
TIP: Cooking the ragù in a heavy enamel coated dutch oven or similar pot will hold the heat steady for a long simmer.
400 grams fresh tagliatelle or fettuccine
1/2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
150 grams pancetta (preferably organic), finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1/2 a medium onion, finely chopped
400 grams minced veal (preferably organic)
2 tablespoons tomato paste (it’s recommended to use triple concentrated tomato purée, which is standard in my supermarket, but if only using double concentrated, then increase the quantity by about a third)
1/2 glass dry red or white wine (120 ml)
3/4 cup fresh milk (180 ml)
sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1. In a heavy bottomed pan or dutch oven, fry the pancetta gently in a little olive oil over medium heat until it starts to release its fat. Be careful not to burn.
2. Add the carrot, celery and onion and sauté until the onion becomes translucent, stirring from time to time.
3. Add the veal and cook until it is lightly browned.
4. Add the tomato paste and wine; mix well. Add the milk, little by little, stir until well combined.
5. Season with salt and pepper, lower heat, cover and cook very slowly for 1 to 2 hours (if time allows, up to 4 hours).
6. Serve with fettuccine or tagliatelle (forget spaghetti!) and parmesan on the side. Enjoy!