This traditional Italian Bolognese sauce recipe will make people queue outside your door!
That’s true, I wouldn’t dare saying it out loud otherwise. Whenever I declare my intent to prepare Ragù – such is the real name of the Bolognese sauce, mostly unknown to the unsuspecting non-Italians – my friends start getting nervous as they want to be sure to have sit booked at my table. Do you want to take the risk to be in the same situation ? Keep reading!
First, I have to make an important premise about Bolognese sauce ragù (deep breath).
Spaghetti Bolognese doesn’t exist (ohh, how liberatory). I was so shocked when I saw it the first time! I promise, every Italian would look at you in horror and astonishment just at the mention of it. If you go to Italy, you’ll discover that the usual partners for ragù are tagliatelle, pappardelle, or lasagne, as their porous and rough texture, their size and shape make them more adapt to trap this exquisite sauce.
As concerning random additions as chili pepper, oregano, thyme, parsley and so on: horror and sacrilege…not sure I can comment such blasphemous takes. Father, forgive them because they don’t know what they do.
Yes, maybe I worship this recipe just a liiiittle too much.
As you might have understood from my blatant rant, when it comes to this recipe, a lot of caution is required. After all, it is one of the most iconic dishes of our national cuisine! I had the luck to live in Bologna for many years when I was a student, but a feeling of awe prevented me from proposing my version until my very last years of permanence in “The Fat” (in Italian, la Grassa, one of the nicknames of this magnificent town).
Bolognese people are of course more than proud of this jewel and every family jealously guards its own secrets and tricks, as well as almost religious beliefs on what should be added or not, done or not! For the record, an official recipe was deposited – like a Holy Grail – to the Chamber of Commerce of the City of Bologna on the 17th of October 1982 (link here).
My Bolognese sauce, though, is not the official one – after all, I m still in awe and I could never say that. This is my personal, humble version, the final one after crossing many recipes, eating it in many Bolognese restaurants, reading and researching. It is the result of a work of love, taste and passion…and it’s good.
The secret of Bolognese sauce
The main trick behind the success of your Bolognese sauce ragù is the long and slow cooking. You should never trust fast ragù recipes. By no means you will obtain a great result with less than 2 hours, which is really the minimum. Good things take time! Bolognese sauce should simmer slowly for around 3 hours, to reveal its complex taste and develop a proper thickness. The more it cooks, the better. I know it sounds tiring, but actually during this time you might as well forget it! In fact, you’ll just have to check it from time to time and give it a stir, to be sure all ingredients get well coated. To be totally honest, this is the part I prefer! Going to the kitchen and getting lost in the enveloping scent of this fine sauce is one of the biggest pleasures ever.
So let’s get it started!
Ingredients (4 servings)
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1/2 onion, finely chopped
3 tablespoons of olive oil
350 gr. (12,5 oz) ground beef (80% fat)
150 gr (5,5 oz) ground pork
1 glass (3/4 cup) of white wine
5 tbsp tomato paste
600 ml (2 and 1/2 cups) stock
1 cup milk
The first step is to prepare your battuto: an Italian basic preparation which combines different elements and it’s really multipurpose. In this case we will use celery carrots and onions. Start by peeling your carrot and shallots/onion, clean the celery from its leaves and then chop all of them finely.
Bring stock to a low simmer in a medium/small pot. Heat a large saucepan over medium heat and add the pork; cook until the liquid from the meat has evaporated.
Drizzle the olive oil in the same pan; when it starts sizzling, add the chopped carrots, onion and celery. Sauté at low heat, stirring, until the vegetables become soft and translucent and release their flavour. Now it’s time for the beef to join the party!
Switch to medium heat and cook until beef is golden, always stirring, and then wet it all with the wine ( hic ). The nicest part is that you can use a glass of the wine you will be drinking later, and at this stage I keep a glass for me while cooking. It’ s awesome!
When the wine has almost totally evaporated, add the tomato paste and half of the stock. Stir to blend. Reduce the heat to low and add, gradually, the rest of the stock. Stir well and leave it on a low simmer.
From this moment on, you just have to come stir from time to time. It is very important to use a non stick pan so nothing bad happens to the lower bottom of your sauce! It is up to you to decide the degree of awesomeness of your Bolognese sauce. I would say in 2 hours from now it will be ready, but I recommend to let it simmer for at least 3 hours.
The last secret : 40 minutes before removing it from the heat, add milk. I know it sounds odd, but it won’t change the taste. It will just add a feeling of intense creaminess to the texture and it will kill it!
As last step, taste it and adjust seasoning.
Now, wanna be hyper satisfied?
Bring abundant water to a boil in a large pot. Add a tablespoon of salt and pasta. Cook your tagliatelle/fettucine/pappardelle until al dente. Drain pasta and dress with ragù, coated with a few spoonfuls of cooking water.
Additional note : Ragù is always awesome! You ca eat it right away or the day after. In the second case, just remember to warm it up for some minutes at low heat, adding a bit of milk.
Italian Bolognese Sauce - Ragù alla Bolognese
My Italian Bolognese sauce recipe - traditional and authentic.
- 1 carrot, finely chopped
- 1 celery stalk, finely chopped
- 1/2 onion, finely chopped
- 3 tablespoons of olive oil
- 350 gr. (12,5 oz) ground beef (80% fat)
- 150 gr (5,5 oz) ground pork
- 1 glass (3/4 cup) of white wine
- 5 tbsp tomato paste
- 600 ml (2 and 1/2 cups) stock
- 1 cup milk
- Step 1 Peel your carrot and shallots/onion, clean the celery from its leaves and then chop all of them finely.
- Step 2 Bring stock to a low simmer in a medium/small pot.
- Step 3 Heat a large saucepan over medium heat and add the pork.
- Step 4 Cook until the liquid from the meat has evaporated.
- Step 5 Drizzle the olive oil in the same pan and add the chopped carrots, onion and celery.
- Step 6 Sauté at low heat, stirring, until the vegetables become soft and translucent. Add beef and cook at medium heat for some minutes, stirring.
- Step 7 Add wine.
- Step 8 When it evaporates, add tomato paste and half stock.
- Step 9 Stir to blend.
- Step 10 Reduce the heat to low and add gradually the rest of the stock.
- Step 11 Let it simmer for 2 hours.
- Step 12 Add milk.
- Step 13 Simmer for another hour.
- Step 14 Adjust seasoning.