In the United States, the term “bolognese sauce” is sometimes applied towards a tomato-and-ground-beef-based sauce that bears little resemblance to the authentic version, which is complex and fragrant. A variety of meats, and sometimes cured meats, are simmered with aromatic vegetables such as celery and carrot, and a little milk and wine, to form a delicate, creamy sauce.
The recipe below is adapted from Marcella Hazan‘s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. It’s the same recipe, more or less, except with the addition of ground pork and the substitution of fennel instead of celery. I like ground pork for its sweetness and richness, and use it often. As for the fennel, it was what I had on hand.
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 tablespoons butter, divided
1/2 cup chopped onion
2/3 cup chopped fennel — (1)
2/3 cup chopped carrot
1/2 lb. ground beef chuck
1/2 lb. ground pork
freshly ground black pepper
1 cup whole milk
1 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 cups canned imported Italian plum tomatoes, torn into pieces, with juice
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 lbs. tagliatelle pasta, cooked and drained
freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese at the table
(1) — If you choose to make this dish, I strongly suggest that you use celery instead of fennel. The fennel is listed in this post because it was what I had available in my pantry at the time. If I were to cook this dish again, celery would be my default.
Put oil, 3 tablespoons butter and chopped onion in a heavy 3-½-quart pot and turn heat to medium. Cook and stir onion until it has become translucent, then add chopped fennel and carrot. Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring vegetables to coat well.
Add ground beef and ground pork, a large pinch of salt and a few grindings of pepper. Crumble meat with a fork, stir well and cook until the meat has lost its raw, red color.
Add milk and let simmer gently, stirring frequently, until it has bubbled away completely. Add a tiny grating, about 1/8 teaspoon, fresh nutmeg and stir.
Add wine and let it simmer until it has evaporated. Add tomatoes and stir thoroughly to coat all ingredients well. When tomatoes begin to bubble, turn heat down so that sauce cooks at the laziest of simmers, with just an intermittent bubble breaking through the surface.
Cook, uncovered, for 3 hours or more, stirring from time to time. While sauce is cooking, you are likely to find that it will begin to dry out and the fat will separate from the meat. To keep it from sticking, add 1/2 cup water as necessary. At the end of cooking, however, the water should be completely evaporated and the fat should separate from the sauce. Taste and correct for salt.
Add remaining tablespoon butter to the hot pasta and toss with the sauce. Serve with freshly grated Parmgiano-Reggiano cheese on the side.
Time: 4 hours, including prep. The sauce has a three-hour minimum cooking time; some people cook it for longer than that.