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My best bolognese
Issue 53: Is this an authentic version? Who knows!? Who cares!
Why hello there! Welcome to on hand! If you’ve landed here and somehow aren’t subscribed, I got you:
Bolognese is one of those recipes that people — people meaning Italians — like to argue about. Are there tomatoes? Yes, according to Marcella Hazan. No, according to Bon Appétit. Is there garlic? Probably not, but I think garlic is awesome, so I use it. Is there pancetta, chicken livers, or prosciutto? Maybe, depending on who you ask and how authentic they believe they are. I even saw a few recipes that don’t use nutmeg or milk, two things that have always felt non-negotiable to me.
I took an informal survey of some friends and family on one of the more hotly debated ingredients in bolognese:
Since no one can actually agree on how bolognese is made, I present to you my favorite version. It uses tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, and garlic because why the hell not! It’s perfect for a quiet day at home because it’s a recipe that’s like my ideal background TV show (SVU if you’re wondering): interesting enough to keep you engaged, but not something you have to pay a ton of attention to to still enjoy the outcome. Make it while you’re doing other things today and you’ll have an insanely good dinner tonight (and even better leftovers tomorrow).
There might be some nonnas out there that will tell me tomatoes or garlic are inauthentic, but che importa!
(*Google translate says that’s Italian for who cares!)
My Best Bolognese
Serves 4-6, but this recipe can be easily doubled. The sauce freezes well.
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. ground beef, pork, or a mix of both (I like both)
2 tbsp. tomato paste
1 cup whole milk
Heavy pinch of fresh nutmeg
1 cup dry white wine
2 cups (or about 1 small can) crushed tomatoes
Freshly ground pepper
1 lb pasta
Parmesan, for serving
1 tbsp. butter to finish (optional)
In a large, heavy-bottom pan or pot, add olive oil and heat on medium-high. Add onion, carrot, celery, garlic, and a pinch of salt and cook until slightly soft, about 4-6 minutes.
Add tomato paste, mix, and cook until the mixture darkens a bit.
Add ground meat and use a spoon to break it down into small bits. Add another pinch of salt and a few cranks of black pepper. Cook until the meat is no longer raw and has lost it’s pink color, about 6-8 minutes.
Add milk and nutmeg and simmer until milk has cooked almost all the way down.
Add white wine and let it simmer until it’s evaporated. Add in the crushed tomatoes and mix well. Bring to a strong simmer.
Reduce heat to low and very gently simmer until meat is very tender, about 2.5-3 hours. Periodically stir and if the mixture starts to get too dry, add about 1/4 cup of water. When the sauce is finished, it will be very thick and not very liquidy. Taste and adjust for salt if needed.
Cook pasta until just before al dente. Add pasta to pot with sauce, add a little pasta water and cook until the pasta is al dente. Remove from heat, add the butter and a heavy grating of parmesan and incorporate. Portion into bowls and top with additional parmesan.