Hands-down, this Italian classic is one of the favorites at our house. It’s easy to make and, while it takes a few hours on the stove, it’s worth every minute.
It’s also not expensive — which I like, of course. There is nothing from a jar, never ever, that is this good. Nor can most restaurants afford to serve a dish that takes hours to cook. If you find one that does, show them some love.
You’ll see it’s easy to taste the difference once you’ve made the real thing.
You’ll need a good heavy pot that holds its heat well. Most often, I use a 6 quart enameled cast iron but anything similar should be fine.
My go-to recipe for this comes from Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. There are probably a billion variations scattered across the internet but this is the one I consider the classic. I’ve been making it long enough now that it’s muscle memory and I had to unearth and dust off my bookshelf copy to check the recipe for today.
If you’ve not heard of her before, as a brief introduction from Wikipedia,
Marcella Hazan (née Polini; April 15, 1924 – September 29, 2013) was an Italian-born cooking writer whose books were published in English. Her cookbooks are credited with introducing the public in the United States and Britain to the techniques of traditional Italian cooking. She was considered by chefs and fellow food writers to be one of the foremost authorities on Italian cuisine.
Marcella’s first pasta choice is homemade fresh tagliatelle. Well, absolutely, you can make your own and I have. However, my favorite dry pasta for bolognese is rigatoni and honestly just about anything works fine.
Even though this is a meat sauce, we don’t really use that much of it. Marcella calls for 3/4 pound of ground beef chuck, not too lean. I use a one pound package (which is plus or minus a bit) of grass-fed 80/20 from our local butcher.
For today, as Marcella specified, I used a can of imported Italian plum tomatoes (San Marzano in this case). You have to be careful when buying these as there some… less than perfectly truthful, shall we say, options available. In fact, there is even a product with the brand name of San Marzano that are so-named after the real thing. That is, they are not it.
That said, my favorite canned tomatoes lately are Bianco Dinapoli organic from California. I get them at the local grocery store though, oddly enough, they’re not stocked in the organic food section but rather on the bottom shelf of the regular tomatoes aisle. Go figure. Most important, I think they consistently taste great — especially if fresh tomatoes are not in season.
I am not in any way affiliated with or compensated by this company, I just want to point you toward what I think is a good thing, okay?
I grabbed a bottle of dry white wine from a local vineyard at our weekend farmers market which turned out to be even better than I’d hoped. As they say, never cook with a wine you wouldn’t enjoy drinking.
Combine the oil, butter, and a sprinkle of salt over medium heat and cook the onion, celery, and carrot until they just start to get tender. About five minutes or so.
Add the meat, another sprinkle of salt, some ground pepper, and the nutmeg and cook until browned.
Pour in the milk and, stirring often enough to keep it from burning, let it cook until the milk is evaporated.
Do the same now with the wine.
Finally, add the tomatoes and reduce the heat to a low simmer. Then, as Marcella says, “Cook, uncovered, at the merest simmer for a long, long time; no less than 3 hours is necessary, more is better.”
Make sure you stir it now and then.
Ragù alla Bolognese
Ragù alla Bolognese is hands-down one of our favorite Italian classics. Though it takes a while, it's simple, affordable, and incredibly delicious. Visit suppertimeblues.com to learn more.
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 cup chopped onion about half of a medium onion
- 2/3 cup chopped celery about two stalks
- 2/3 cup chopped carrot about two carrots
- 1 pound ground beef chuck original recipe calls for only 3/4 pound
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 3 cups canned imported Italian plum tomatoes cut up, with their juice I use a 28oz can
- salt & black pepper
- 1 pound pasta or thereabouts if you're making it fresh
- freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese at the table
- Combine the oil, butter, and a sprinkle of salt over medium heat and cook the onion, celery, and carrot until they just start to get tender. About five minutes or so.
- Add the meat, another sprinkle of salt, some ground pepper, and the nutmeg and cook until browned.
- Pour in the milk and, stirring often enough to keep it from burning, let it cook until the milk is evaporated.
- Do the same now with the wine.
- Finally, add the tomatoes and reduce the heat to a low simmer. Then, as Marcella says, "Cook, uncovered, at the merest simmer for a long, long time; no less than 3 hours is necessary, more is better."
- Make sure you stir it now and then.
Serve over cooked pasta that's been tossed with a little butter and grate some good, hard cheese like parmesan or pecorino over top if desired.
Serve over pasta that’s been tossed with a little butter and grate some good, hard cheese like parmesan or pecorino over top to taste.
I like it with a small glass of red table wine and a simple salad on the side. But that’s me.