Ragu' alla Bolognese
Best on Rigatoni or Spaghetti
2-4 hours cooking time
A little History and Geography (to get this sauce right you need a little local knowledge)
Get rid of the notion of "Italian food", Italy is only 150 years old (I believe I wrongly said 120 years on the show - too much coffee). This pasta sauce is typical of the Reggio Emilia region of which Bologna is the capital. Before the unification of the Italy, Bologna was ruled by the Popes.
Bologna today is the most important city in Northern-Central Italy. It only takes a high speed train 30 minutes from Florence to rocket North, in a tunnel carved through a mountain chain that splits the Italian boot in half. The food in Bologna is fantastic, traditionally heavy and mostly meat based (being a land-locked city). The food comes with the climate that is different from Florence in that it is often foggy or rains. Even the sidewalks in the city centre are carved inside the buildings that line the streets, so that shoppers can stay dry while they shop.
What wine to drink with this pasta sauce?
This Ragů is the heaviest, thickest meat sauce pasta can handle, and our BARONE FINI - Pinot Grigio pairs perfectly with this monster. Our fresh, crisp white wine amazingly lightens up and allows you to savour every bite of the Heavyweight Champion of meat sauces!! Yes a white wine with a heavy meaty meal!! If you choose a "big red" you will experience a battle of tastes on your tongue. Our wine is the nuclear response to this battle, the Ragů does not stand a chance.
The Recipe (for 4 to 6 people):
- 1-3 Onions
- 3-10 Carrots (choose how many you like, they will make the colour more beautiful and deep orange)
- 1-2 celery sticks
- 1 can of peeled tomatoes (optional, I use water instead)
- 1 pound of ground beef
- 1 pound of ground veal (and if you can't get it you can use ground turkey which will lighten the sauce)
- 1 pound of peeled Italian Pork sausage meat (without ANYTHING in it, especially fennel!!)
- Lots of Olive Oil
- Salt to taste
Chop the onions, celery and carrots into fine pieces and sauté in a separate pan with ample olive oil. Do not burn, just let them start transparent. At the same time put the 3 meats into the cooking pot (a good one that you know does not burn sauces) with more olive oil on a high heat and mix until the meats are very lightly browned, avoid burning at all costs. Then put the onions, celery and carrots together with the meat and if you decide the sauce must use tomatoes, put in the can of tomatoes, otherwise put in water until the meat is covered - AND START SIMMERING on a very low heat to allow a slow boil. Add water as it evaporates. Make sure to scrape the bottom of the pot all the time to avoid the bottom burning (I have lost many greats to this disaster). The amount of time the Ragů must cook is a long time but the way you know the right time has elapsed is when the carrots are no longer pieces but dissolve as you mix the sauce. Once the carrots start to dissolve, start to thicken the sauce adding more olive oil if needed until you like the consistency and colour. The more you thicken the sauce, the blacker it will get!! Best of luck for a wonderful meal.
If you ask anyone in Italy for the recipe of a Ragů you will get a million different answers… I have other Meat "Ragů" sauces that takes much less time to cook and are much lighter for instance. But this is the king and the original. I gave the basic ingredients, but the "Bolognesi" will often also add chicken livers, mushrooms, prosciutto, milk, cream, fresh peas and other secret ingredients.