Pasta Bolognese is a classic Italian dish to serve for Sunday supper. Bolognese Ragu is a meat sauce simmered for hours in milk or wine, served over fresh egg pasta and loaded with lots of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. It is creamy, rich, and melts in your mouth. Pasta Bolognese is my husband’s favorite pasta after discovering on a recent trip to Italy how magical it is when made right. I have tried to recreate that experience here.
Bolognese comes from its namesake town Bologna, in the heart of the Emilia Romagna region of Italy. There are many versions of Bolognese. The process is the same but the ingredients can vary widely . Saute finely diced pancetta, carrots, celery and onion with ground meat (beef and/or pork, veal) until brown. Add a liquid (milk or wine and meat stock), add tomatoes (canned tomatoes or tomato paste) seasoning (nutmeg, oregano, red pepper) and simmer for hours until creamy and rich. Serve over egg pasta or a dried fettuccini. The key is the long slow simmer.
My recipe uses both ground beef and ground veal, combines both milk and red wine for the braising liquid, uses chicken stock for the broth (homemade bone broth if possible), skips the garlic and oregano, adds nutmeg and red pepper flakes, and keep the tomato to a minimum by using tomato paste. I do add a bit of cream at the end for a buttery finish. I always serve it over egg pasta and with lots of good quality grated parmesan cheese. Add some yummy garlic bread on the side.
This shows the difference in the sauce as it simmers in the liquid. The first picture is after the red wine and tomato paste was added. Note that I used a large deep skillet instead of a Dutch oven. I like the wider bottom for browning the meat.
After the milk has been added and simmering for 2 hours.
Serve with lots of freshly grated parmesan cheese.
Pasta Bolognese for Sunday Supper
- 2 ounces pancetta, finely diced (or 3 strips bacon, diced)
- 1 pound ground veal
- 1 pound ground beef chuck
- 1 medium sweet or yellow onion, finely diced
- 3 carrots, washed, peeled, and finely diced (or grated)
- 3 ribs celery, finely diced
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 tablespoons tomato concentrate (comes in a tube)
- 1 tablespoon salt + 1 tablespoon for pasta water
- 2 teaspoons black pepper
- 1 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes (season to taste)
- 1 cup dry red wine (white is OK too)
- 2 - 3 cups chicken stock
- 1 cup milk (2% or whole)
- 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 2 cups parmesan cheese, fresh grated + more for table
- 1 pound tagliatelle pasta (fresh egg pasta), or fettuccine
- In a large,deep, wide-bottom pan over medium-high heat, cook the pancetta until caramelized and brown. Add the olive oil, onions, carrots, and celery and cook until the vegetables are translucent and soft, about 10 minutes.
- Crumble the ground beef and ground veal into the same pan over medium-high heat. Use the back of wooden spoon, break up the meat and and smash any big chunks into smaller pieces. Continue cooking on medium high, stirring often to ensure even browning. Cook until most liquid is absorbed and the meat is browned, about 15 minutes.
- Make a space in the middle of the pan, and add the tomato concentrate. Stir constantly, mixing in the meat/vegetable mixture with the tomato until it is well combined. Add salt, black and red pepper and stir to mix.
- Add the wine and bring to boil, mixing and scraping up an brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Boil for 1 -2 minutes.
- Add 2 cups chicken stock, milk and the nutmeg to the pan and stir to blend. Reduce heat to low, partially cover the pan with a lid ajar, and gently simmer for 1½ hours. (the halfway point)
- Check the sauce for seasoning and adjust if needed. If needed, thin the sauce adding ½ cup of milk at a time. Continue cooking for another 1 1/2 hours over low heat at a gently simmer. Check occasionally and add more stock if needed. During the last 10 minute of cooking add the cream and mix to combine.
- Place a large stockpot filled with water over high heat. Add salt and bring to a rolling boil. Add the pasta and cook for 4 minutes or al dente (or according to package directions).
- Transfer pasta to a large, warm pasta serving bowl. Ladle the Bolognese sauce on top and mix well. Add the grated parmesan cheese and mix to combine. Top off with one more ladle of sauce.
- Serve immediately with more grated parmesan cheese on the side.
- Store any leftover Bolognese sauce in the fridge for another pasta meal.