Looking for comfort in a bowl? Bolognese—the rich and hearty Italian meat sauce—will perfume your kitchen with the intoxicating aroma of onions, carrots and celery, sautéed with tomatoes, wine and slow-cooked beef. It’s exactly how I want to spend a few hours on a Sunday afternoon (and you will too).
Remember: the key to nailing this dish with all the gusto of a bonafide Nona is to make it when you have a block of time dedicated to getting it right. Because, while there may be as many different ways of making bolognese as there are people cooking it, one thing remains pretty standard across the board; you cannot rush this sauce.
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound ground beef
1/2 pound ground pork
4 ounces pancetta, minced
1/2 cup dry red wine
3 cups beef or chicken stock
3 Tablespoons tomato paste
1 Tablespoon Umami paste
1 cup milk
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound tagliatelle (I used bucatini here)
Freshly grated Parmesan
1. Heat oil in a large, heavy bottomed pot. Add onion, carrot and celery, and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring often, for 1 minute. Add pancetta fry until golden brown, about 5 minutes.
2. Clear a space in the centre of the pot, add tomato paste and cook for about 30 seconds before incorporating with the rest of the vegetables.
3. Add beef and pork and cook, breaking into small pieces with a wooden spoon and stirring, until lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Add 1 Tablespoon of umami paste* (optional).
*The addition of this sauce adds another savoury flavour dimension, but don’t worry if you don’t have it. Your sauce will still be fantastic.
4. Add wine, stir and let boil for 2 minutes, scraping up browned bits. Add stock, reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally for about 2 hours.
5. In a separate pot, heat milk* until hot, but not boiling, and slowly add to the sauce. Stir to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste and cover. Cook for another 30 minutes or until milk is fully absorbed.
*The addition of milk helps create the rich creamy texture, while the lactic acid in the milk helps to tenderize the meat. So don’t skip it!
6. Serve with tagliatelle (I used bucatini here) and freshly-grated parmesan.
Bolognese with Creamy Polenta
Want something different but just as satisfying? Serve your bolognese over a piping hot mound creamy polenta.
1 cup cornmeal
4 cups chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 Tablespoon butter
1. Bring chicken stock to a boil, add salt and stir with a whisk to incorporate. Add the cornmeal to the pot and continue to whisk so that no lumps form, about 2 minutes.
2. Reduce heat to medium-low, partially cover with a lid to stop splatters and continue to cook for 25 minutes, stirring every 6-7 minutes. Add a pad of butter and stir.