Last night I had the pleasure to be invited to a wonderful dinner at a friend's house, where she prepared one of the best pasta dishes I have ever had. What she made for us, according to her, was the official Ragú alla Bolognese. Well, one might argue that there isn’t one authentic recipe for Ragu alla Bolognese, but I must tell you, this one is the closest thing to the original. After doing a little research I found out that on October 17, 1982, the Bolognese chapter of the Accademia Italiana della Cucina, -“after having carried out long and laborious investigations and conducted studies and research”- announced that this particular recipe, the recipe that my friend followed, IS the official one.
Here are some notes about the dish:
A ragu Bolognese style is a meat- and tomato-based pasta sauce originating in Bologna, Italy. The sauce is typically made by simmering ground meat in tomato base, white wine, and stock for a long time (often up to four hours), so that the meat softens and it begins to break down into the liquid medium developing a complex flavor and the proper thickness. Cooking the ragu in a heavy-duty enamel or similar pot will hold the heat steady and help to give a velvety texture to the ragu.
Spaghetti alla Bolognese, or spaghetti bolognese which is sometimes further shortened to spag bol, is a dish invented outside of Italy consisting of spaghetti with a meat sauce. In Italy, this sauce is generally not served with spaghetti because it tends to fall off the pasta and stay on the plate. Instead, the people of Bologna traditionally serve their famous meat sauce with tagliatelle. Note, the true Ragú alla Bolognese contains just enough fresh or canned tomato to add a hint of sweetness and another layer of flavor to a subtle, complex mix.
- 400 grams fresh tagliatelle
- 300 grams minced beef – The recommended cut is thin flank aka skirt (finta cartella in Italian) but any good quality mince will do.
- 150 grams unsmoked pancetta — minced very finely
- 50 grams carrot — finely chopped or minced
- 50 grams celery — finely chopped or minced
- 50 grams onion — finely chopped or minced
- 30 grams triple concentrated tomato puree
- 1/2 glass red or white wine
- 180 milliliters fresh milk
- olive oil
- salt and pepper
- Fry the pancetta gently in a little olive oil until it starts to release its fat. Be careful not to burn.
- Add the vegetables and fry until the onions are transparent, stirring from time to time.
- Add the beef and cook until it is lightly browned. When it starts to make popping noises, it’s done.
- Add the tomato puree and the wine and mix well.
- Add the milk, little by little until it is completely absorbed.
- Season with salt and pepper, cover and cook very slowly for 3 to 4 hours.
- Stir occasionally and if it looks like drying out, add a little more milk.
- Serve with Tagliatelle (NOT Spaghetti!)
- Serve with Parmesan cheese on the side. Alternatively toss the pasta first in a little butter and then in Parmesan before adding the meat sauce.