The not-so-secret Bolognese is an unbelievably deep and complex sauce. It is an all-day braise event that leaves the house with the most amazing aromas of tomatoes, onions, garlic, and wine. Bolognese is for people looking to spend a whole Sunday cooking. There are no secret cheat codes to make it cook faster. Cooking bolognese is an event and something to plan the day around.
The not-so-secret bolognese is one of my favorite recipes. I love cooking it and spending the time to make an amazing delicacy for my family. It's something I often make for guests because I know it will impress.
If you're looking to up your cooking skills and spend some time in the kitchen, this is a great way to learn about braising meat. I always hate when people say they put love into the dish. I don't even know what that means. I think patience is the key. This dish takes a lot of patience.
Start with cooking the Tomatoes First
I usually save leftover Sunday Sauce, so I can skip this step. The first step is to cook the tomatoes. I like to do this separately. In a small-medium pot, add 2 tablespoon of olive oil and bring to medium heat. When the oil is shimmering, stir in minced garlic and saute for 2 minutes. Add in 1 can of whole plum tomatoes. I usually use San Marzano tomatoes.
Bring the tomatoes to a boil and then return to a simmer. Add 6 basil leaves and a teaspoon of salt. Simmer the sauce for 30 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and use an immersion blender to smooth out the tomatoes. Put it to the side for later.
Making Soffrito with Pancetta
The rest of the recipe will be completed in a dutch oven, preferably, or a heavy-bottomed pot. Bring the dutch oven to medium-high heat. Add in a ¼ pound of chopped pancetta. Stir the pancetta frequently until the fat starts becoming translucent. The rest of the pancetta should begin to develop a slight golden color. Lower the heat if it begins to brown.
After about 6-8 minutes, stir in chopped carrots, celery, and onions. Saute for 8-10 minutes until vegetables become softened, but not browned. Add salt and pepper for taste while cooking the vegetables. Once the onions are translucent and the vegetables are soft, stir in 3 cloves of garlic minced.
Saute the garlic for 2 minutes. Mix it well into the vegetables and create a well in the bottom of the pot. Place 2 tablespoon of tomato paste in the well and allow it to carmelize for 2 minutes. Then stir through the mixture and cook for 2 more minutes. Remove vegetable mix from the pot and place in a separate bowl.
Cooking the Meat
For the not-so-secret bolognese, I always use, pork and beef. I think this is a good combination, but you could substitute, ground lamb or veal as well.
Bring the dutch oven back to medium-high heat. Drop 2 tablespoon of butter in and allow the foam to subside. Place the 2 lbs of meat into the pot and break the meat apart really well.
The point of this step is not to brown the meat. Once the meat is broken apart cook until the meat is no longer pink, about 6-10 minutes. If the meat begins to brown or develop a crust, lower the heat.
When the meat is almost all brown, add chopped anchovy and stir for another 2 minutes, until the meat is no longer pink.
With bolognese, some people add milk and/or cream at the end. I like to simmer the beef in the milk. I feel it makes the beef and pork so much softer. Pour 1 cup of milk into the meat and simmer fo about 10 minutes or until the milk is almost absorbed. Stir often and don't let it come to a boil.
Red Wine Deglaze
Add your vegetable/pancetta mix back into the dutch oven once most of the milk is absorbed. Mix until homogenous and then add 1 cup of red wine and simmer for 15-minutes, stirring occasionally. Typically, using a red wine high in tannins will be best for bolognese. Tannins will help break down the meat flavor and develop the sauce into a richer and more intense flavor.
Think about when you order a steak. A red wine, like cabernet or syrah, would go great with that because the tannins help cut through the fat in the steak. I use a cabernet for the not-so-secret bolognese. I always pick a decent wine.
People sometimes use the phrase, "cooking wine." I don't buy into that. I want good flavor, whether I'm eating it or drinking it. This is a fairly expensive meal. It's not time to cheap out on the wine. Spend the extra $6 here. It will make a difference.
The Long Simmer
The not-so-secret bolognese is a time intensive task. But the 3-4 hour simmer is the easy part. Sit back and enjoy the aroma.
Pour your tomato sauce into the dutch oven and bring everything to a low simmer. Add in the rest of the basil and salt. Then cover leaving a slight opening for steam to escape. Stir ever 30 minutes more for 3-4 hours. I also usually add a parmesan rind into the sauce as it simmers, if I have one.
The sauce may develop some oil on top. Wait until the very end to scoop some of that out. Most of the sauce should emulsify into the bolognese as it simmers. If you still feel like there's too much oil after the 4 hours, remove some with a spoon.
Serving the Not-So-Secret Bolognese
Bolognese goes best with rigatoni in my opinion, so I always suggest serving it over rigatoni. I also will toast a piece of Italian bread or sour dough bread and top it with the bolognese. The finished product should ultimately be very chunky, not saucy.
Always serve with plenty of parmesan and crunchy Italian bread. Bolognese is a favorite for me. I don't have many favorites because I love variety, but this is truly one of the best recipes I make. I hope you enjoy as much as I do.
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- 1 dutch oven
- 1 lb ground beef, 85%
- 1 lb ground pork
- 2 carrots, chopped
- 2 celery stalks, chopped
- ½ onion, chopped
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 28 oz can whole plum tomatoes
- ½ cup sage, chopped
- ½ cup basil chopped
- 2 bay leaves
- 4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup milk
- 1 cup red wine
- 2 tablespoon butter
- 4 anchovy filets, chopped
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- ¼ lb pancetta, chopped
- In a small pot, bring 1 tablespoon of olive oil to medium heat. Stir 2 cloves of minced garlic into the oil for 2 minutes. Pour the canned tomatoes in and bring them to a boil. Lower heat and return to a simmer. Add in half the basil and 1 teaspoon of salt. Simmer for 30 minutes.
- In a dutch oven, bring olive oil to medium-high heat. Add pancetta and saute for 6-8 minutes until the fat is translucent and the meat starts to turn golden brown. Stir in chopped onions, celery, and carrots and saute for another 8 minutes until vegetables soften, but not brown. Add 1 teaspoon of salt while cooking. Add minced garlic and stir for another minute. Create a well for a tomato paste and add directly onto the pan. Let tomato paste sit for 2 minutes then stir throughout the mixture. Remove from the heat and place the mix in a bowl.
- In the same pot, add butter and wait until the foaming subsides. Add in pork, ground beef, 1 teaspoon salt, and chopped sage. Do not brown the meat. Stir often to avoid browning and cook for about 8-10 minutes until meat is no longer pink. Stir in chopped anchovy and cook for another 2 minutes.
- Pour milk into the meat mixture and cook for about 6-10 minutes until a lot of the milk becomes absorbed. Add the vegetables back in and then add red wine, and allow it to simmer for about 15 minutes until mostly absorbed. While the red wine is simmering, remove the tomato sauce from the heat. Use an immersion blender to smooth the sauce.
- Pour the tomato sauce, into the meat, and stir well. Add 2 bay leaves, half of the basil, and 1 teaspoon salt. Stir and bring to a simmer. Cover the pot leaving an opening and low simmer for 3½ to 4½ hours. Bolognese should not be saucy, it is finished when it is very thick. Stir occasionally throughout simmering.
- Serve over 1½ pounds of rigatoni.