It is a life’s challenge to perfect the Bolognese sauce. The classic Italian home cooked sauce gives a ragu alla bolognese in its most basic form: minced steak, onion, celery, carrot and tomato purée, cooked for an hour and a half with a little water to keep it moist.
What about the extras? Chicken livers and chopped bacon or uncooked ham, in addition to the usual vegetables, plus white wine, stock and tomato purée have all been included in the many published recipes.
The other key additions are the dairy products, which feature milk, fresh cream and double cream. Although the flavour is barely detectable in the finished sauce, some few hours later in the oven, the milk does add a definite sweetness which works well with the bright, fresh flavour of the white wine it accompanies.
As for the wine, there is no doubt that red wine definitely looks the part: much darker than the other recipes, and far richer and more savoury in flavour.
In the end, cooking from the heart will always give an “authentic” taste to this much loved dish.
This recipe was tried and tested AND it was pretty amazing, if you don’t mind 3 to 4 hours of long and slow cooking time.
How do you like your Bolognese?
Generous slabs of butter
200g smoked streaky bacon, finely diced
2 onion, finely diced
2 carrot, finely diced
4 sticks celery, finely diced
500g coarsely minced beef, at room temperature
100g chicken liver, finely chopped (optional)
300ml whole milk
Nutmeg, to grate
300ml dry red wine
2 tins whole tomatoes
- Melt the butter in a large casserole set over a gentle heat, and then add the bacon. Once the bacon fat has started to melt, add the onion, and cook gently until softened, then tip in the carrot, and cook for 5 minutes before adding the celery and cooking for a further 2 minutes.
- Crumble the beef into the pan and brown, stirring occasionally to break up any lumps. Season, then stir in the liver, and let it cook for another 5 minutes.
- Pre-heat the oven to 125C. Pour in the milk, and grate a little nutmeg over the top. Simmer gently until almost all the milk has evaporated, which should take about half an hour.
- Pour in the wine and the tomatoes and stir well. Put the casserole into the oven, with the lid slightly ajar, and cook for at least 3 hours (4 is even better) until the meat is very tender. Check on it occasionally. Serve with pasta or gnocchi, and grated parmesan or pecorino cheese.