Bolognese Sauce


I grew up eating ground meat cooked up with a jar of Ragu. That was spaghetti in our house. I often made said dinner as a youngin’ of seven for the bargain chore price of $1.00. Now, before I get a bunch of hate mail- there is nothing wrong with this dinner. It’s a staple of many a busy American household and something I will use when crunched for time and craving spaghetti; however, I had no idea for 20-some years that something else existed. That this meal, this sauce, even had another name. Bolognese.    (We also ate almost all our vegetables from cans- spinach, asparagus, peas, etc.. Imagine my floor dropping astonishment when I tried fresh asparagus at the age of 19. Or fresh sauted spinach…Just imagine. Mind blowing.)

So we have Bolognese- tomato meat sauce, quite simply. But, oh no, this is not a simple sauce when tasted. LOOORRRD, is it something.

Prior to my cooking experience of the last 18 years and counting, the magazine- Cooks Illustrated frightened and generally bored me.  Now, I  look forward to its arrival like a Zappos package of shoes being delivered. This did not happen overnight, more like a series of 6570 nights. I’m no math genius (no comment marumodern!)but I think that equates to about 18 years.

Anyways, I digress…I turn to CI for many recipes because they make the claim of trying exhaustive techniques and trials to get to just the right recipe. I certainly don’t have time to make 134 versions of apple pie to get to the best one. Occassionally, I find their recipes to be a whole lot of work with eh-so-so end results. This, my friends, is not one of those recipes. It is simple. It’s eye-rolling delicious. It is, even better, freezable. Disclaimer- it does take a few hours but none of it is complicated or difficult to undertake. DOUBLE it and freeze a bunch. The new CI just came yesterday claiming to have an “ultimate” bolognese. This cook is going no where near a chicken liver as their new recipe does- sticking with this one.

What makes this so good is all the layers of fat, sorry but it’s true (and worth it sometimes.) butter fat- meat fat- milk fat. Layers of flavor are key to most good to great recipes.

Tip: If you have a food processor, mince up the onion-carrot-celery all at the same time. You need 6-ish tablespoons. Heck, throw your whole cloves of garlic in their too.

Italian Bolognese Sauce (adapted from Cooks Illustrated, 1999)

Printable Recipe

(Yield: approximately 3.5 cups; Easy to double and great to freeze)

3 tablespoons salted butter

2 tablespoons minced onion

2 tablespoons minced carrot

2 tablespoons minced celery

2-3 garlic cloves, minced

½ tsp salt

¼ tsp ground pepper

1 lb meatloaf mix (1/3 lb ground beef chuck, 1/3 lb ground veal, 1/3 lb ground pork)

1 cup whole milk

1 cup dry white wine

1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes

  1. Heat butter in a large sauce pan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Saute onion, carrot, celery and garlic until softened but not browned. Add ground meat and ½ teaspoon salt. Crumble meat in to small pieces as it cooks. Cook, about three minutes, until meat just loses color but not yet browned (otherwise it will be tough little chunks in your sauce.)
  1. Add milk and bring to a simmer. Continue to simmer until milk evaporates and only the clear fat remains, about 10 to 15 minutes. If you double the recipe, simmer for 30 minutes.
  1. Add the wine and bring to simmer. Continue to simmer until wine evaporates, about 10 to 15 minutes. If you double the recipe, simmer for 30 minutes.
  1. Add tomatoes and their juices and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low. Sauce should be at a very low simmer, with an occasional bubble or two at surface. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until liquid has thickened- about three hours. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper. Serve warm.

Refrigerate for several days or freeze. Warm over low heat before serving.

Necessary accessories: crusty bread for dipping, glass of red wine, someone you love to slurp pasta with ala Lady and The Tramp style.

Enjoy!  b

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