This rich and meaty sauce doesn’t require much work, but it does require a lot of time. Much acclaimed Italian cookbook author, Marcella Hazan says the “minimum being 3 1/2 hours but 5 hours is better”.
Using a modification of Hazan’s recipe for bolognese is the perfect wintry recipe for a Sunday afternoon.
Hazan explains in her “The Classic Italian Cookbook” (first published in 1973), that ragout is a French meat stew and ragu is Bolgna’s meat sauce. The only thing they share is the verb “ragouter” which means to “excite the appetite”. The deep flavor results from the reduction of ingredients throughout various stages of the cooking process.
Hazan writes there are 3 essential points in making a good ragu: Sauté meat just until it loses it’s raw color or it will lose its “delicacy”.
The meat must be cooked in milk BEFORE the tomatoes are added to keep the meat creamier and sweeter. And, finally, it must cook at a very slight simmer for a very long time.
Pancetta contributes to the unctuous meaty flavor of the dish. You could substitute with bacon and this will add an element of smokiness to the sauce. The amount of smokiness would depend on the type of bacon you choose to use.
The ultimate way to enjoy a good Bolognese sauce is with a thick cut homemade pasta, such as paparadelle. Making pasta from scratch, while the sauce is simmering, would be the ideal accompaniment to this bolognese. I, however, am using the opportunity of passive simmering for non-culinary projects; a box of ziti will be fine for today.
Though not traditional, I enjoy bolognese with whole grain pasta, too. The rich and intense bolognese is delicious, in my opinion, with the whole grain pasta.
Adapted from Marcella Hazan’s “Tagliatelle alla Bolognese” (Classic Italian Cookbook 1973)