This sauce hails from the city of Bologna, in Northern Italy. While we are used to opening cans and eating ready-made sauce mixes, each family in Bologna has its own recipe, passed down from generation to generation. A common misconception about the sauce is that it is tomato based. While tomatoes are an important ingredient, the signature red coloring is due to the meat used. In reality, canned bolognese sauce and mixes bear little resemblance to the real and authentic bolognese sauce of Italy.
Authentic Bolognese Sauce Recipe
- 1 large onion (finely diced)
- 2 large celery stalks (finely diced)
- 4 small carrots (finely diced)
- 4 garlic cloves (very finely diced)
- 1 can, tomatoes (diced and liquid preserved)
- 120 g pancetta (diced into ¼-½ inch cubes)
- 1 kg ground meat (veal, pork, or beef)
- 1 cup, beef stock
- 2 cups, milk
- 1 cup, white wine
- 2 tablespoons, olive oil
- 4 tablespoons, butter
- Salt and black pepper
- Parmesan cheese (freshly grated)
- Pasta (precooked)
Heat a large saucepan at medium temperature and add some oil. Melt the butter in it. Add the onion, celery, carrots, and garlic with a pinch of salt, and sauté for 5 minutes. Add the pancetta and cook for another 10 minutes, till vegetables are soft and the pancetta is golden. Increase heat to high and add the meat, a third at a time. Break lumps if any and stir between additions. When all the meat is brown and no lumps remain, set a timer for 15 minutes. Watch the pan, as the meat shouldn't burn. When some bits of meat stick to the bottom of the pan, then lower the heat to medium, and this should coincide with the 15 minute timer. Pour the white wine into the pan, and scrape all the meat bits stuck to the pan (use wooden spoon). The wine will evaporate in 2-3 minutes. If meat continues to stick to pan, lower the heat. Add milk, tomatoes (with liquid), beef stock, 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper to it. Bring it to a boil, then lower the heat. Let the sauce simmer for 4 hours, half-covered. Stir once in a while. If sauce starts to stick to the bottom, add a little more stock or water. The sauce should become thick, with an oil like base and not watery. Check salt and pepper quantity, add more if necessary.
Authentic Vegetarian Bolognese Sauce
- 1 ounce, dried porcini mushrooms
- 5 ounces, assorted mushrooms (chopped)
- 3 carrots (chopped)
- 1 onion (chopped)
- 1 red bell pepper (chopped)
- 2 garlic cloves (chopped)
- 2 tablespoons, tomato paste
- ¼ cup, olive oil
- 2 teaspoons, fresh thyme leaves (chopped)
- 1 teaspoons, fresh oregano leaves (chopped)
- ½ cup, red wine
- ½ cup, mascarpone cheese
- ¼ cup, Parmesan cheese
- 1 pound, rigatoni pasta (cooked)
- 1½ cup, hot water
- 1 teaspoon, ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons, salt
In a small bowl, place the porcini mushrooms and pour 1½ cups of hot water over it. Set it aside to let mushrooms soften. In a large skillet, heat olive oil on medium-high heat. Add the chopped vegetables, thyme, oregano, salt, and pepper. Cook for about 6 minutes till tender. Strain the mushrooms and keep the liquid. Then, add the mushrooms, fresh mushrooms, and tomato paste to the skillet and cook. Stir to dissolve the tomato paste and cook for 5 minutes, till mushrooms become soft. Add the mushroom liquid and red wine. Bring it to a boil, reduce the heat to low and let the mixture simmer for 10 minutes, till the liquid content becomes half. Add the cheese and stir. In a plate, place the pasta and spoon some sauce over it. Toss with Parmesan cheese and serve.
Bolognese Sauce Making Tips
- This is a heavy sauce, so avoid using spaghetti for serving.
- Pastas to be used: tagliatelle or pappardelle, rigatoni, or farfalle.
- Cook pasta in plenty of salted water, to get a good taste.
- Try to use Parmesan cheese over cheddar for grating, as it gives a creamier and more authentic taste to the sauce.
- Be patient, bolognese sauce is hearty and rich, so it needs to simmer well.
- For a more refined taste, use kosher or sea salt.
- You can add ground nutmeg, instead of garlic as a variation.