Ragù Alla Bolognese
“The one sauce to rule them all.” (Paraphrased.)
Bologna ranks high on my list of favorite European destinations. Italy’s seventh-largest city counts a million people in its metro area and is dubbed the “Fat, Red, and The Learn’d City”: “Red” for its distinct red rooftops; “learn’d” for having the oldest university in Europe.
“Fat,” not surprisingly, comes from its hearty traditional cuisine, and it’s an accolade I can get behind. Our meals were universally stellar during a pre-COVID visit.
Recently, I got a hankering for a good bolognese sauce which sent me to The Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook—a tome filled with 2,000 recipes. The articles are simple and straight to the point and can easily be customized to one’s liking. And even if you don’t feel too adventurous, their base bolognese (page 193) is as good as most restaurants’.
I have made some modifications to the sauce, the biggest being a switch from red wine to pure tart cherry juice. It has the acidity of the wine and adds a mild sourness to the palate.
For your enjoyment, here is my 2.0 version of the Cooks Illustrated recipe:
1 tbsp + 4 tbsp of unsalted butter
1 lb ground pork, finely chopped
1 lb ground beef, 15% fat, finely chopped
½ onion, finely chopped
3 mid-sized carrots, finely chopped
4 stalks celery, finely chopped
5 tbsp tomato paste
1 cup pure, tart cherry juice
1 cup cream
Salt and pepper to taste
Melt the first tbsp of butter in a large, thick saucepan over medium heat.
Add pork, and let it cook until liquids have evaporated, stirring often.
Add beef, stir in, and cook until the meat is browned.
Remove meat from pan, and place in bowl.
Melt the rest of the butter in the pan, and toss in the onion, carrots, and celery.
Cook until translucent and soft.
Stir in tomato paste and let cook for five minutes, stirring intermittently.
Add meat and cherry juice, set to high, and cook for two minutes.
Cover and reduce to a simmer for about an hour. Make sure the meat doesn’t dry.
Stir in cream and salt. Let simmer for another 30-45 minutes.
And that’s it! This sauce goes great with the traditional tagliatelle pasta and a generous dusting of parmesan.
“Pasta With Classic Bolognese Sauce” The Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook, first edition, page 193.
“Bologna.” Wikipedia. December 27, 2021. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bologna