My love for Bolognese knows no bounds. Seriously, if you are of the opinion at all that I am a nice person, do not put yourself in between me and a bowl of my favorite ragù. I'm not kidding. Ask my husband.
I have made it my quest and my practice to make the best from-scratch meat sauce of all time and you, my lucky friends, are about to be the recipients of the recipe. Think of it like the holy grail of hearty dishes. The pinnacle of pasta sauces, the…ok, I am getting carried away (and a little proud of myself).
There are a few variations in this recipe. While Bolognese is traditionally made with pork, or a mixture of beef and pork, my recipe uses only beef (feel free to mix it up!). Also, the sauce usually has some sort of milk or cream in it. I chose to leave it out, mainly because we have a dairy-free family member, but also because I think it is rich enough as is. I took some inspiration from my recent trip with the seasoning by adding in a healthy portion of Moroccan cinnamon to the meat and I think it is what puts this version over the top. It is really something special.
Another thing about this recipe is that it is mostly prep. If you do not own a food processor then either run right out and buy one, or go take a long look in the mirror and wonder how you have existed this long without one. The key, I think is the mincing. Which, unless you have monk-like qualities, can be intense. Not that it's not worth it! It is. Just maybe have your skill-level-appropriate teenager earn their allowance here or something.
So, enough with the bragging, and on to the goods.
Enjoy this Friday feast and let me know what you think!
serves 4 – 6
1 leek- sliced thin on the slicing setting on the food processor, or minced
1 medium onion -minced
3 garlic cloves -minced
3 carrots – minced
1/4 lb. pancetta – minced
2 C. (about 1/4lb) of either shitake or crimini mushrooms (not dried) – wiped of grit and minced
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary – destemmed
5 sprigs of fresh thyme – destemmed
2.5 lbs of fresh, organic ground beef (90% lean or less)
2 heaping tbs. of ground cinnamon
1 tbs ground fennel seeds (optional)
1 28oz. can of crushed tomatoes
1 8 oz can of tomato paste
2 cups dry red wine (or whatever is open)
1 tbs. brown sugar
Salt & Pepper
I personally think that one of the secrets to this dish is the mincing, so if you have the time, mince everything separately and set aside in separate bowls. It keeps everything organized and the flavor building gradually. If you don't have time, you can certainly mince the garlic, onions, carrots and mushrooms together. I would mince the pancetta separately and really do encourage the slicing adaptor for the leek. It adds something to the final sauce.
In a heavy-bottomed 7qt. pot add olive oil, bay leaves and herbs and cook until you can smell them, then add the onion and garlic, pancetta and leek and cook until slightly softened. Add the rest of the vegetables and the mushrooms and cook on medium heat for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally to mix.
Raise the heat a little and add the ground beef. At this point, take your cinnamon and fennel seeds if you are using them and toss them right on top of the meat. Brown the meat and break up the clumps, as you do this the cinnamon and fennel will incorporate into the meat. You should also add a little salt and pepper at this point. Cook until the meat is browned.
Gently pour in the tomatoes, tomato paste and wine and bring the sauce to a boil. Season with salt and pepper, lower the heat and cover. Slowly simmer for 1.5 – 2 hours, stirring occasionally and tasting for salt and pepper. This sauce wants to be very thick, so the longer it cooks the better.
Before you cook your pasta, take the sauce off the heat and let it stand. Stir in the brown sugar. This sauce is even better the next day…and the day after that…
You can use any pasta you love. I really like it with the traditional Tagliatelle, but the pasta in the photos is just something that looked fun at the grocery store. It held the sauce well too. Make about a pound, or a pound and a half of pasta, as this is a large batch of sauce. I have also been known to eat a bowl of Bolognese all by itself. Not lying.
Serve with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or fresh ricotta and enjoy!!