Bolognese sauce (Ragù alla Bolognese) is a famous sauce of Emilia Romagna, made with ground meat, soffritto and tomato passata. It can be cooked in different ways; all depends on the choice of the meat, that affects the cooking timing.
There is an official recipe for Bolognese sauce: in 1982, the Academia Italiana della Cucina officially registered the recipe with the Bologna Chamber of Commerce. They suggest using a rather fatty cut of meat called “cartella”, located between the belly and the cow shoulder. The recipe we are going to show you is the traditional Bolognese sauce recipe, the authentic and official one in terms of ingredients, doses and cooking times
Nowadays, in order to decrease the fat content in Bolognese sauce, we usually use more lean meats. This way the cooking time is shortened considerably.
The perfect match with Bolognese sauce is fresh homemade pasta, but you can try this special sauce also with spaghetti, penne or rigatoni.
When serving pasta with Bolognese sauce, bring to the table grated Parmigiano Reggiano, so that your guests can sprinkle it over it to taste.
Bolognese Sauce Recipe
Step 1) – Start cutting the pancetta into cubes first and then chop it very finely. Set aside. Make the soffritto: cut the carrot, celery and onion in very tiny pieces. The more the better. In a saucepan with high edges and thick bottom place the extra virgin olive oil (or butter if you like) and the chopped vegetables. Sautè for 2/3 minutes over medium heat. Then add the ground beef and the pancetta. Mix with a wooden spoon and cook until all the meat is well cooked (from 10 to 20 minutes).
Step 2) – When you see that the meat is cooked add the white wine. Mix gently until it has completely evaporated. Then add the tomato passata and a little bit of stock if the sauce is too thick.
Step 3) – Season with salt and pepper then add the milk to dampen the acidity of the tomato. Stir and cover with a lid. Cook slowly over low heat for about 2 hours.
Step 4) – Bolognese Sauce will be ready when you can see an oily, creamy sauce on the surface. According to Bologna’s custom, when the sauce is ready, add 100 ml of whipping cream (optional), but only for dressing dry pasta. For fresh pasta or lasagna, its use is to be excluded.
Try Bolognese sauce with spaghetti, macaroni, potato gnocchi, tagliatelle, tortellini or lasagna. If you add a little peas to the Bolognese sauce, you can get a fantastic meat sauce to fill the Sicilian arancini.
How to store Bolognese sauce
- You can make bolognese sauce ahead and heat it when needed.
- You can keep it in a glass container, well covered with cling film, for a maximum of 2-3 days in the refrigeretor.
- If you prefer, you can even freeze it and keep it in the freezer for 3 months.
What kind of meat for Bolognese sauce?
- The perfect cut of beef in Italy is called “cartella”, similar to the beef shoulder.
- The ground beef must not be too lean, but must have a fat component that allows it to endure long cooking.
- If you use it to season pasta, it’s better to grind it only once so that the sauce has a coarser grain. On the contrary, if you want to use bolognese sauce for lasagna, grind it twice.
- Add finely chopped pork belly (pancetta), so that the consistency is the same as that of the ground beef.
- If necessary, the pancetta can be replaced with minced pork. You can try even with sausages.
About tomato: passata or peeled tomato? Tomato concentrate: yes or no?
- Bolognese sauce should not be too red, so the amount of tomato must always be less than that of the meat.
- We prefer tomato passata. The passata is usually made in summer with perini tomatoes (san marzano), the sweetest and most ripe. When making the passata at home, acidic varieties of tomatoes, such as cherry tomatoes, or too watery ones, such as vine tomatoes, should be avoided.
- If, on the other hand, you buy the ready-made passata (and on the market there are a lot of great quality), it’s better to use a rustic, thick one.
- For this recipe we usually don’t use tomato paste, but if you want a more red Bolognese sauce you can add it.
Wine … how much and which to choose?
- Not much wine is needed: for 500 g (1.1 lb) of minced meat, a small glass (about 100/150 ml) is enough.
- A good dry white wine is fine, but traditionally we recommend Sangiovese di Romagna.
- Whatever the wine you choose, it’s essential that it’s of good quality because its aromas enrich the Bolognese sauce with flavor.
How do we see that the Bolognese sauce is ready?
You mast control the sauce from time to time, even if it’s not necessary to mix it continuously. In fact it’s better to check from time to time that it does not dry out too much. If necessary, you can add hot water or stock to adjust the density. A good Bolognese sauce must never be too liquid. After about 2 hours of cooking, you will see that a dark and creamy sauce is formed on the surface, made of fats. At that point the sauce is ready.