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Some recipes are pages in the book of our life, full of memories.
This is the Bolognese sauce for me.
Its smell makes me think about the city that welcomed me. Above all, it is one of my first memories in the kitchen.

Like that of Neapolitan ragù, it is a historical recipe even though it is not as old as the Neapolitan one.
They are both the derivation of one of the five basic sauces of international cuisine.
Did you know? The tomato one, of course. Ragù alla Bolognese is the most famous Italian sauce in the world.

As I have written, it is a powerful and unforgettable memory from my childhood. I knew how to make ragù before I learned how to chop an onion or what a soffritto was. It happened while I played in the kitchen while my maternal grandmother cooked. Without knowing it, I was training my nose and eyes.

Today, I can recognize the scents that distinguish the different stages of preparation.

The moment when vegetables become soffritto, and their smell becomes a chorus. The sweet aroma of the bacon embracing the soffritto. Finally, there is the most significant aroma, that of the ragù when it is ready.

I don’t have to taste it; I know I can turn off the stove.

Bologna welcomes you

My first encounter outside my home kitchen with the aromas of Bolognese sauce was unusual.

It brought me to my university days. I used to arrive in Bologna in the early morning. Once I got off the commuter train, now as then crowded with people, sleep, and life, I would step out into the square of the Central Station where the unmistakable essence of Bolognese sauce was there to greet me, almost an embrace.

First came the aroma of soffritto and then that of ragù in all its richness and density.

Bologna does not still welcome you with the aroma of its sauce; the smells have changed, and none is prevalent.

Sometimes, walking through the alleys of the downtown, I smell that scent that tickles my nose.
In this case, I slow my pace and think of the greasy, glossy Bolognese sauce embracing the tagliatelle or spread on rectangles of green pasta dough, again a slice of warm, crusty bread.
I’ve always liked it in a sandwich, too.

Bolognese sauce recipe

The recipe for Bolognese sauce

The history of ragù alla Bolognese begins in the 1700s and ends only in 1900 when we can officially speak of that recipe. Even in the early decades of the 20th century, the recipe, which met tomato sauce, not pulp, in the late 19th century, still has fluid boundaries.

It was 1982 when the local Delegation of the Accademia della Cucina Italiana registered the recipe with the local Chamber of Commerce. The decision creates discussion among experts and many Bolognese who, by ancient and established family tradition, execute a recipe different from the deposited one.

The discussion concerned the composition of the mince.

In fact, the ingredients of the recipe registered in 1982 do not call for a mixed mince of beef and pork but only beef. In addition, of course, at the pork belly at the beginning with the soffritto. For many Bolognese people, the practice was different, and the mince was of mixed meats, a custom that helps to make the ragù more juicy. In addition, there was also a divergence about the wine, if red or white.

When the controversy seems to be over, every time, something happens, and it regains vigor.

I have always made ragù following my family tradition (using mixed meats), and I have never known one Bolognese who makes the recipe using only beef.

And then, an unthinkable breakthrough happened.

Recently (2023), experts have again intervened, effectively embracing what has always been the tradition known and practiced by the Bolognese. These are the news you can read on the Bologna Chamber of Commerce website:

PERMITTED VARIANTS

1) Mixed meats: beef (about 60 percent) and pork (about 40 percent) (loin or neck pork);
2) Knife minced meat;
3) Stretched or rolled pork belly instead of fresh bacon;
4) A scent of nutmeg;

VARIANTS NOT ALLOWED

1) Veal meat;
2) Smoked bacon;
3) Pork meat only;
4) Garlic, rosemary, parsley, other flavorings or spices;
5) Brandy (in place of wine, which may be white or red);
6) Flour (for thickening).

VARIANTS ADMITTED

1) Chicken offal;
2) Skinned and crumbled pork sausage;
3) Blanched peas added at the end of cooking;
4) Soaked dried porcini mushrooms.

 

Bolognese sauce recipe

Do you know that Bolognese sauce has a soul?

The soffritto is the soul of Bolognese sauce.
The soffritto for ragù alla Bolognese calls for onion, carrot, celery, no pepper, bay leaves, or other spices.
If you want to make it Bolognese style.

The vegetables in the soffritto are all finely chopped.
My carrot always remains too coarse when it should disappear in the mince. My husband, Mr. Bolognese, never fails to point this out to me, and I smile since he is right.

Sautéing is gentle; the vegetables should not brown but cook slowly, releasing the flavor. At this point, add in sweet pancetta, ground, not diced, and cook until it melts.

When the soffritto has taken shape, you are ready to start the preparation of the ragù, adding the ground meat and all the other ingredients step by step.

Some things to know about Bolognese sauce

  • Spread a little Bolognese sauce on bread, and you’ll hear your croutons singing.
  • The mince for Bolognese is slightly coarse, never too fine.
  • Of all the possible savings, skimping on cooking wine, thinking it evaporates, is a mistake as common as it is to avoid. You will taste every ingredient that ends up in the pan.
  • Does the meat sauce cook for four hours? Once, people used to cook it for many hours since the meat was more tenacious. Today, at least in Europe, it contains more water and you can reduce the cooking time.
    I cook the sauce for about 2.30 to 3 hours.
  • Choose the pasta shape best suited to celebrate the union with the meat sauce. The latter should embrace the former and not run away from the bride before the wedding begins. Fresh pasta: tagliatelle, macaroni and gramigna al torchio, garganelli, lasagna. Among the dry pasta, ziti or penne.
  • To make a traditional seven green sfoglia layers for lasagne alla Bolognese, you needed 1/2 kg of ragù.
  • To season tagliatelle or other pasta for four people, use 400 g of meat sauce.

Buona cucina, Monica

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Bolognese sauce ingredients

Bolognese sauce

That is the original recipe for Bolognese sauce. It is a typical mixed minced meat sauce that is the pride and tradition of Bologna cuisine
Course Sauce
Cuisine Bolognese
Keyword Bolognese sauce, Ragù alla bolognese
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 80 g of onion
  • 80 g of carrot
  • 80 g of celery
  • 50 g of butter even lactose-free
  • 20 g of olive oil
  • 3 g of salt
  • 150 g of sweet bacon (pancetta or, in alternative, pork underbelly) ground separately, not to be combined with ground beef and pork loin
  • 300 g of slightly coarsely ground beef or muscle, shoulder, underbelly, belly or brisket
  • 200 g of pork loin ask the butcher to grind loin and beef meat together
  • 100 g of red wine
  • 300 g of tomato passata
  • 200 g of whole milk even lactose-free
  • 300 ml of broth, meat, or vegetable to use if needed

Instructions

  • Begin preparing the ragù from its soul, the soffritto. Keeping them separate, chop the onion, carrot, and celery very finely.
  • Place a large pot on a small stove and melt butter in olive oil on medium-low flame. Gently sauté the onion for two minutes before adding the carrot, stir, and, after one minute, the celery too.
  • Combine the salt while stirring. It will help the vegetables pull out their water without burning.
  • After 3 minutes, or when the soffritto is slightly translucent, add the sweet ground bacon (pancetta), stir, and cook for a few minutes.
  • Add the ground meat, crumble it with a fork, and stir. When you hear the meat to sizzle, add the wine and let it evaporate. While it evaporates, pour a glass. Is it a good wine? I hope so because you just used it in your meat sauce.
  • Add tomato sauce and cook for one hour, leaving the pot uncovered and over low heat on a small stove. Bolognese sauce should not boil; it cooks slowly, humming a song under your breath.
  • After an hour, you are almost halfway through cooking, considering that the first half hour has passed between preparing the soffritto and inserting the other ingredients. It is time to add the milk to the meat sauce. Stir and cook for another hour. But doesn't the meat sauce cook 4 hours? Once, it was necessary to cook the sauce for many hours since the meat was tough. Today, it has more water, and you can reduce the cooking time. I cook the sauce for about 2.30 to 3 hours.
  • Turn it off and let it cool out; let it stand at least overnight (when cooled, place the pot in the fridge).
  • The next day, taste and, if necessary, adjust the salt.

Food tips

  • While cooking, add broth if necessary. I know it put you on the edge of your seat. I'll try to translate: if you encounter resistance while stirring or look at it and see that it is dry, add broth. Don't worry if you add too much liquid. In that case, cook until the final consistency is thick but fluid.
  • Prepare the Bolognese sauce the day before and let it rest for at least one night.
  • It will be kept in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Or make portions and freeze.

2 Comments

  • Jonas
    Posted 23 November 2020 at 11:34 AM

    I like your recipe. I’m slightly obsessed with bolognese and wrinkle my nose at all the abominations I’ve seen that use garlic, oregano, basil, chilli flakes, smoked bacon and even ketchup!!! ????
    I make mine with chunks of meat like shortribs and let it cook for 5h then shred the meat. I find the meat flavor to be better that way, and it’s not necessary to use pork if you use a beef cut with more fat. That’s my own version.
    Personally I use a dry white wine.
    I don’t use any milk though.
    Here are ingredients in my version: some kind of cut of beef (shortribs or chuck), pancetta, soffritto, good quality Italian tomato paste, dry white wine, a small amount of broth as you say is a good way to keep the ragu moist, final ingredient is a lot of time and love.

    • Post Author
      Monica
      Posted 23 November 2020 at 6:55 PM

      Ciao Jonas! I completely agree with you that time and love are indispensable to make a good ragù. And that a long cooking time of the meat, as you do, and one more fat cut of beef don’t make the pork necessary (as I wrote, pork is an ingredient not included in the official recipe). The milk makes the taste softer and some old Bolognese used to add butter or heavy cream at the end of cooking; even the official recipe deposited at the local Chamber of Commerce of Bologna admits milk. But apart from milk, one thing is true: the ragù Bolognese does not call for any aroma. Thank you for reading the recipe and for your useful comment, I hope that here on the blog you will find other interesting Bolognese recipes to try. Buona cucina, Monica

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