This dish originated in the northern Italian city of Bologna. Traditionally it is a rich meat sauce with a small amount of tomatoes and tomato paste, served over spaghetti. In Italy it is called, Ragu alla Bolognese. Here, we tend to make Bolognese as a thick meaty tomato sauce. So if you are a purest the following recipe may go against the grain, but this is how my Mom used to make it. She generally made Spaghetti Bolognese in the winter, slow cooking it on her wood stove. The whole house smelled like a tratorria!
This dish is often served on spaghetti (hence the name!), but you can serve it on any pasta. In fact, when I made Spaghetti Bolognese with my friend Leslie, we tried it both on spaghetti and on a wonderful pasta she had from Italy.
Leslie had 2 types in her pantry, the one shown above, which had a little hint of red pepper and a plain pasta version. We tried the Bolognese on the spicy pasta and it was wonderful!
You may be able to find this pasta in your local grocers or upscale shop, but you can also buy it online. Here is one of what I am sure are many sites that sell this fabulous pasta. http://www.pellini-usastore.com/Pasta-Astorino-Maccheroni-Calabresi-11-lbs-8032601880134.htm
The Astorino website is very attractive, but of course all in Italian! http://www.astorinopasta.it/
On to the recipe!
A sauce like Bolognese offers lots of opportunity for tweaking. Some people add slab bacon or pancetta; a combination of ground pork and ground beef; others use sun-dried tomato finely mashed into the sauce. Sometimes you’ll see a carrot or celery stalk thrown in. Emeril Lagasse uses cream and butter! This is how Mom used to make it:
Splash of Olive Oil
3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 pound ground beef (Yes, I used the grass fed beef again!)
1/2 to 3/4 bottle red wine (I used Rex Goliath Cabernet Sauvignon.)
2 (28 oz.) cans chopped tomatoes
4 Tbsp. tomato paste
2-3 Beef Bones (I had some nice rib eyes the night before. Cut the meat off the bone before serving and saved the bones for this sauce. You can skip adding the bones, but they give the sauce a great depth of flavor. Mom never put bones in her sauce.)
1 tsp. Salt
1/2 tsp. Black Pepper, or to taste
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves picked off and finely chopped
2 Tbsp. dried oregano
1 bay leaf
Pinch of hot pepper
Parmesan cheese for serving
Fresh basil, optional
Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add a splash of Olive Oil, a little salt/pepper, and saute the onion and garlic until soft, but not browned. Turn the heat up to medium-high and add the ground beef. (Make sure your meat is at room temp before adding to the hot pan.) Stir the beef to separate the meat and thoroughly incorporate the onion and garlic. Cook until beef is browned; about 10 minutes. Don’t be concerned if it is not cooked through as this sauce will simmer for hours. Add fresh rosemary; oregano; bay leaf, hot pepper, 1 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. black pepper. Add 2 cups of wine and reduce by half; simmering about 15 minutes. Add 4 Tbsp. tomato paste; mix well with the meat. Add 2 cans chopped tomato, with their juice, and mix well again. Add 1 more cup wine. Cover allowing the sauce to release steam. Simmer for 3-4 hours. Stir sauce every 20 minutes or so. Check for seasoning and if sauce gets too thick you can add a little more wine, beef or chicken broth, or water. Remove bay leaf and beef bones if you were using them.
Cook your spaghetti or whatever pasta you’re using al dente and serve topped with Parmesan Cheese and a fresh sprig of basil.
While our sauce was simmering Leslie treated me to a delicious glass of wine.
I am not a wine expert, although I do drink my fair share. Fortunately for me, Leslie is. She chose to decant this wine to help accelerate the ‘breathing’ process and soften the taste of the tannins. She was able, just by smelling the wine after opening to make that decision.
Prado Enea Muga 2004 Gran Reserva was one of the smoothest, most pleasant red wines I’ve ever tasted. This is how Wine Enthusiast describes Prada Enea:
“Perfumed, lush, and complex to start, then vibrant in the mouth, with excellent integration of flavors, acidity, and tannins. Tastes of fine tobacco, mulled blackberry, chocolate, and spices.”
That’s just about how we described it, too! It was perfect to sip a glass of wine before the meal and also a fantastic companion to the Spaghetti Bolognese! Thank you Leslie!
UNTIL NEXT TIME, KEEP COOKING AND REMEMBER THERE ARE NO MISTAKES IN THE KITCHEN.
CRANK UP THE MUSIC, POUR A GLASS OF VINO,
AND ENJOY YOURSELF!