BOLOGNESE MEAT SAUCE, LONG SIMMERED
Italian Home Cooking
by Julia Della Croce
Salsa bolognese, also known as ragu bolognese, has traveled far and wide outside the borders of Bologna, and no wonder. This complex, fragrant, and delicate meat sauce, versions of which simmer in pots all over the region of Emilia-Romagna in preparation for midday Sunday lunch, is one of the marvels of the Italian table. While I have listed ground beef in this recipe, a combination of veal, pork, and beef can be used for an even more complex sauce. Salsa bolognese is typically used between layers of homemade lasagne in Bologna's region, and it is the classic sauce for homemade tagliatelle. Pappardelle and fettuccine are also suitable matches. The most compatible macaroni cuts are fusilli corti (short twists), gnocchetti, and rigatoni. Pass freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano at the table.
Makes 2 cups
• 2½ cups canned, peeled plum tomatoes in juice
• 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
• 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
• 1 small white or yellow onion, finely chopped
• 1 small celery stalk, including leaves, finely chopped
• 1/2 small carrot, scraped and finely chopped
• 1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
• 3/4 pound ground lean beef, preferably chuck
• 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
• 1/2 cup good-quality dry white wine
• 2/3 cup milk
• 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg, preferably freshly grated
• freshly ground white or black pepper
• tasty meat broth, as needed
• 1 pound pasta, cooked, for serving 4
1. Drain the tomatoes, reserving their juice. Chop and set aside.
2. In a large, wide Dutch oven or large, deep skillet over low heat, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter with the olive oil. Stir in the onion, celery, carrot, and parsley and saute until quite soft but not at all browned, about 12 minutes. Keeping the heat very low, add the ground meat. The meat must heat very gently, only enough to color it lightly on the outside; preventing it from hardening allows it to absorb the flavors of the other ingredients and to become delicate and creamy. Stir in the salt and wine. Simmer very gently for several minutes until the the liquid is absorbed.
3. Add the milk and nutmeg. (It is important to add the milk before adding the tomatoes so that it is absorbed by the meat.) Simmer gently for 10 minutes, then add the tomatoes and juice. As soon as the sauce begins to simmer, turn the heat down as low as possible. Cover partially and simmer, always over the lowest heat.