My friend Winston gave me Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan for my birthday a couple of years ago. He, who, by the way is an incredible cook, said that was THE book that taught him everything he knows. After making this Bolognese, I believe it.
A warning to any that want to try this recipe out for themselves, it’s a traditional Bolognese sauce, which means it takes hours (as in more than 2) to prepare, so I’d suggest picking a lazy Sunday afternoon to prepare it. But if you feel like “going home sick” from work one day when you just need a cooking break, I fully support that as well… it’s THAT good.
Couple of tips – I used olive oil instead of vegetable oil (which is what the recipe calls for). I also used about 2/3 cup onion and an entire 28 oz can of tomatoes (vs. the 1 1/2 cups). As for pasta, I’d definitely recommend going with something fresh if possible. I picked up some fresh pappardelle from DePasquale’s in the North End, but honestly, it was a little too thick for my liking. Next time, a more delicate tagliatelle would be better.
Ray and I enjoyed this with a nice glass of Syrah, but the Pinot Gris we had opened to use in the sauce was good, too.
Marvelous Marcella’s Bolognese Recipe
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 4 tablespoons butter, divided
- ½ cup chopped onion
- 2/3 cup chopped celery
- 2/3 cup chopped carrot
- ¾ pound ground beef chuck
- Fresh ground black pepper
- 1 cup whole milk
- Whole nutmeg
- 1 cup dry white wine (I had Pinot Gris on hand, so I used that)
- 1-½ cups canned imported Italian plum tomatoes, torn into pieces, with juice
- 1-¼ to 1-½ pounds pasta, cooked and drained
- Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese at the table
1. 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 celery and carrot. Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring vegetables to coat well.
2. Add ground beef, a large pinch of salt and a few grindings of pepper. Crumble meat with a fork, stir well and cook until beef has lost its raw, red color.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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 ½ 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.
6. Add remaining tablespoon butter to the hot pasta and toss with the sauce. Serve with freshly grated Parmesan on the side. (I am a firm believer in incorporating cheese into everything I eat, but this was so savory, it wasn’t even necessary – UNBELIEVABLE!)