The Real Bolognese Sauce
Do use garlic to make your bolognese sauce? Maybe you like to add some herbs and spices, such as oregano and nutmeg. Well, you will be surprised to know that the original recipe doesn’t use any of these! Read on to find out how the Ragu’ is really made in Bologna
About this Recipe
By: Silvana Lanzetta
Despite or maybe because of its incredible success, the number of recipes – found on amateurs’ blogs and in celebrity chefs’ books – claiming to be the real bolognese sauce is staggering.
Probably just one or two of them are close enough to the traditional recipe. Close, but still not there! To this day, I have not seen yet any recipe that would be able to sustain a claim to be the authentic or traditional one.
Bolognese sauce, or ragù – from the French word ragoûter, which means “to revive the appetite” – was originally intended as a festive meal served on its own (without pasta) to soldier and sailors.
- 300 g minced beef meat (20 percent fat)
- 150 g unsmoked pancetta
- 50 g brown or pink onion
- 50 g celery
- 50 g carrot
- 300 g peeled tomatoes OR tomato passata OR 5 tbsps of double tomato concentrate
- 200 ml white wine
- 200 ml milk
- Up to 200ml of vegetable stock
- 1 tbsp tomato concentrate
- 2 tbsp creme fraiche (optional)
- 50 gr butter OR 3 tbsps extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
Today, bolognese sauce is traditionally served with fresh egg tagliatelle, but it is also used to season other pasta, such as lasagne (with the addition of béchamel sauce), and the queen of peasant cuisine, polenta.
In 1982, the Bologna delegation of the Italian Academy of Cuisine, after years of research consulting old recipe books, hundreds of families, cooks, and sfogline (pasta makers who specialize in pulling paper-thin pasta sheets by hand), published and registered with Bologna’s chamber of commerce the official recipe for bolognese sauce. This was meant to preserve the cultural heritage and the historical prestige of the dish.
And this is the one I give you today. The only and the original.
Of course, there are variations. For instance, I don’t use pancetta, I add more tomatoes, and I prefer to add red wine instead. I also let it cook for far longer than two hours: this because I’m from Naples, and I’m used to ragù cooked for ages.
Variations are a natural occurrence, as we all modify a recipe to adapt it to our tastes and the ingredients we have at hand. However, when people publish a recipe and claim that it’s the real deal, they need to be careful. We Italians have gone a long way to protect our culinary traditions: bolognese sauce is not the only recipe that has been registered with the local chamber of commerce!
Pasta with carbonara sauce is a very rich dish, quite high in fats. Make it every now and then as a delicious treat for you and your family!
- Proteins 48% 48%
- Carbs 7% 7%
- Fats 24% 24%
Step by Step Instructions
To prepare your bolognese sauce, start by finely chopping the pancetta. Put it in a large, thick-bottomed casserole – ideally cast iron, or the traditional earthenware casserole – and render it over slow heat for about ten minutes.
Meanwhile, finely chop the vegetables. Add the oil OR the butter to the casserole, and stir in the chopped vegetables. Cook on a low heat until they become soft and transparent (about ten minutes). Be careful that the onion doesn’t turn brown.
Add the minced meat, raise the heat to medium, and let it brown, stirring often. Pour in the wine, and keep stirring until it has completely evaporated.
Stir in the tomatoes (either pelati – peeled – OR passata. However, the use of pelati is recommended for ragù). Cover the casserole, and cook for about 2 hours. Add a ladleful of vegetable stock when the bolognese sauce starts to dry up.
About 15-20 minutes before taking your Bolognese sauce off the heat, add the milk and season to taste. When the ragù is ready, take it off the heat and stir in the creme fraiche, which is recommended if using the bolognese sauce with dried pasta. If using fresh pasta, the use of cream is facultative.
Best pasta shapes to use with this sauce are: tagliatelle, the traditional pasta served in Bologna. You could use pappardelle, if you like. Rigatoni , tortiglioni, garganelli, and other large stripy pasta also are a good match.
Bolognese sauce tastes better the day after! Heat it slowly on the hob until it starts bubbling, then let it bubble for 10-15 minutes, stirring often. You might want to add a little milk or vegetable stock to avoid the sauce to go too dry.
Store your Bolognese sauce in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 3 days. Alternatively, you can freeze it in weighted portions in freezer bags. Consume within 1 month.