Authentic Bolognese Sauce

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Like many pasta sauces there are many that are native to a particular region, such as Bolognese, a traditional Italian sauce originating in Bologna, Italy.  The meat is the focal point along with a variety of other ingredients such as onions, celery, carrots, tomatoes, olive oil, and white wine. It is also common to add milk to the ingredients which provides a richer flavor to the sauce.  For variety you can also mix meats by using 1 part each of beef, veal and pork.  Now there are a million recipes for Bolognese on the internet be beware of any one of them described as “quick” or “ready in 10 Minutes”.  There is 1 hour of dicing before your lovely vegetables even hit the pan and then plan on another 30 minutes before you reach the aromatic 4 hour simmer.  So my point is, don’t even think of whipping up this recipe if you don’t have at least 5 hours of free time!  Let’s get started…

Authentic Bolognese Sauce
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Bolognese is the Italian name for what American's would consider a basic meat and tomato sauce.  However, an authentic bolognese is so much more; meaty, yet with a more delicate, aromatic, creamy and subtle flavor.  This dish has become one of my favorites to serve family and guests!
Servings Prep Time
8 people 1 hour
Cook Time
4 hours
Servings Prep Time
8 people 1 hour
Cook Time
4 hours
Authentic Bolognese Sauce
BigOven - Save recipe or add to grocery list
Yum
Print Recipe
Bolognese is the Italian name for what American's would consider a basic meat and tomato sauce.  However, an authentic bolognese is so much more; meaty, yet with a more delicate, aromatic, creamy and subtle flavor.  This dish has become one of my favorites to serve family and guests!
Servings Prep Time
8 people 1 hour
Cook Time
4 hours
Servings Prep Time
8 people 1 hour
Cook Time
4 hours
Ingredients
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 large yellow onion finely diced
  • 2 large celery stalks finely diced
  • 4 cloves garlic very finely diced
  • 4.5 oz pancetta diced to 1/4" cubes
  • kosher salt
  • black pepper freshly ground
  • 2 1/2 lbs ground meat veal, pork and beef or all beef
  • 1 cup dry white wine like a chardonnay
  • 2 cups milk I prefer whole milk
  • 28 oz San Marzano tomatoes canned, both liquid and tomatoes, diced
  • 1 cup beef stock have extra on hand to add later
  • 2 knobs butter
  • parmigiano-reggiano
Servings: people
Instructions
  1. Heat the butter and olive oil together in a large saucepan over medium heat. I'm partial to a large Le Creuset dutch oven for this recipe. When the butter is melted and the sauce is hot, add the onion, carrot, celery, garlic and a good pinch of salt (about 1/2 tsp) and saute for 5 minutes stirring often.
  2. Add the diced pancetta and cook for 10 minutes, until the vegetables are tender and pancetta is golden.
  3. Increase heat to high and add the meat a third at a time, stirring and breaking lumps with a wooden spoon between each addition. Adding the meat gradually allows the liquid to evaporate, which is key if you want to brown your meat rather than boil it. After the last addition, when no pick is visible and no lumps remain, set a timer for 15 minutes. You want your meat to caramelize and even become crispy in some spots. More liquids will evaporate and flavors will concentrate. You want golden bits of meat to stick to the bottom of the pan, which will be deglazed later. Watch over your pan as you don't want the meat to burn. When you see some serious caramelization occurring, lower the heat to medium to reach the end of the 15 minute sauteing time.
  4. Over medium meat, pour the white wine into the sauce pan. With a wooden spoon, scrape all the brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Push the meat all around to make sure you scrape it all off, this is where that rich flavor comes from. By the time you're finished, the wine will have evaporated 2-3 minutes). Be careful not to let the meat stick again so lower the heat if necessary.
  5. Add milk, diced tomatoes and their liquid, beef stock, 1 tsp salt and a good grinding of black pepper. Bring to a boil and then lower to the lowest heat and simmer very slowly, half-covered, for 4 hours. Let the magic begin!
  6. Stir at least every 20 minutes. If your sauce begins to stick to the bottom before the end of your cooking time, add a bit more beef stock or water. In the end you want your sauce to be thick, like that of oatmeal. Adjust the salt if necessary.
  7. Mix in a knob or two of butter before serving, this will produce an incredibly creamy flavor.
  8. Cook the pasta, I prefer a rigatoni or pappardelle noodle. Drain it thoroughly before spooning sauce onto the pasta, just enough to coat the noodles. Top each serving with a generous grating of parmigiano-reggiano, it's time to eat!
Recipe Notes

Let me warn you, this is not your mama's meat sauce!  This is a thick, smooth sauce with rich, complex flavor.  Enjoy!

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