Pasta with Bolognese Meat Sauce
Serves 4 to 6
When I decided it was time to make an authentic Bolognese meat sauce or ragu, I knew I would like it, but thought it would be rather rich and heavy because of the cream. I was surprised that it is much lighter than I expected. The reason is that, as with most sauces, you use very little, just enough to lightly coat the pasta. This is an excellent recipe. I checked many sources before I decided what I wanted to do. There are many different versions of what some call a classic Bolognese, especially when it comes to the pasta and meat used. That is because Italian recipes are like any other and it depends on who is doing the cooking. This is my version. Even though they are very different, either a long or short cut pasta works with this sauce. There is a rather long list of ingredients, but the sauce comes together very quickly and cooks relatively unattended. For a lighter but equally delicious version, see my Pasta with Turkey alla Bolognese-Style recipe, which is in the similar and related recipes links.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons butter, preferably unsalted
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 1 small carrot, finely chopped
- 1 small celery stalk, finely chopped
- 2 ounces pancetta, finely chopped
- 1/2 pound ground beef
- 1/2 pound ground pork
- 4 large cloves garlic, minced
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup dry red wine
- 3 cups canned whole tomatoes with juices, pureed
- 1/2 cup chicken broth
- 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon rubbed sage
- 1/2 cup heavy cream (can use milk for a lighter sauce)
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
- 1 pound pasta, such as penne or spaghetti
- Freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
Heat a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and butter. Sauté the onions, carrots and celery until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the pancetta, beef and pork. Season with salt and pepper, then add the garlic. Break the ground meats apart with a spoon as it cooks. Cook just until it is no longer pink. Turn up the heat if needed to evaporate any water in the pan. Add the wine, broth and tomatoes. Season with the thyme, sage, additional salt and pepper. Let come to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and cook very gently for about 2 hours, partially covered. Check occasionally and add some liquid if it dries out. After the 2 hours, remove some of the excess fat by skimming the surface with a large spoon or paper towels. Add the cream and nutmeg. Simmer another 10 minutes or until the cream is absorbed.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package directions for al dente. Drain and add to the sauce. Toss well to combine. Serve immediately, passing the cheese separately.
Notes: The first time I tried this recipe, I made twice as much sauce thinking I would need more. I ended up freezing half, which worked out very well for a quick pasta dinner at another time. Pancetta is an Italian cured bacon that is available in the deli section of many supermarkets, as well as Italian markets. If you cannot find it, you can substitute regular bacon or just omit it.