Jan 14, 2010

Ragu alla Bolognese

Ragu alla Bolognese 

I saw this recipe in the June issue of Delicious magazine. Now let me start by saying that after this issue I pretty much abandoned their magazine. I’ll flip through the pages at the supermarket but haven’t bought one since. It’s the over-exposed and totally fake colored food photography they print these days that puts me off and makes me cringe. I just don’t like it anymore. I want to see real food, with normal colors so I know what I’ll get on my plate.

But this recipe did spark my interest back then. I made a mental note of it with every intention of trying it soon. Now, we all know how good intentions can inadvertently pave the way to all the wrong places, but making mental notes when you have a memory like a sieve isn’t a really smart thing to begin with. My bad. 

Luckily I ran into said magazine again while cleaning out the gazillion magazines I keep in my night stand, or I would have missed out on the best darn Bolognese sauce ever. Sharing the love! 

  

Ingredients: 

1 pound ground beef
1 pound mixed ground pork/beef
7 oz bacon or pancetta
1 large onion
2 celery stalks
1 medium carrot
2 garlic cloves
2 14 oz cans diced tomatoes
2 1/2 tbsp tomato paste
2 cups milk
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp pepper
3 1/2 cups beef broth
2 1/2 tbsp freshly chopped basil
pinch of dried basil
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil 

Optional: 1 1/2 cups broth can be replaced by red wine 

* this recipe makes for quite a bit of sauce. You can cut the recipe in half, but with all the oven time it’s probably far more economical to make a large batch and freeze half of it. You’ll need a large oven-proof pan for this, preferably a Dutch oven. I’ve used a 5 1/2 quart Le Creuset. 



Directions: 

*preheat your oven to 300F (160C). 

Finely mince a large onion. 
Ragu alla Bolognese 

Peel and finely chop the carrot. 
Ragu alla Bolognese 

I don’t care for stringy bits, so I have a tendency to peel my celery stalks. Works like a charm. Finely chop them. 
Ragu alla Bolognese 

Grate or mince the garlic. 
Ragu alla Bolognese 

Again, I’ve opted for thinly sliced bacon. Don’t I always? My world is a better place with bacon in it. Chop it. 
Ragu alla Bolognese 

This is one pound (good quality) ground beef and one pound mixed ground pork/beef. 
Ragu alla Bolognese 

Heat 2 tbsp butter and 2 tbsp olive oil and cook the bacon for 4 minutes. Don’t look at me, just following directions! 
Ragu alla Bolognese 

Add the carrot, celery, onion and garlic. Cook the vegetables for 5 more minutes. 
Ragu alla Bolognese 

Then add the meat. Cook it for 10 minutes while breaking it up with a spatula. Or a fancy shocking pink silicone spoon. 
Ragu alla Bolognese 

Pour in 2 cups of milk, add 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg and bring to a boil. Simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes. In hindsight, I personally would have gone for 1 cup of milk.
Ragu alla Bolognese 

That gives you plenty time to finely chop the basil leaves. You’ll need about 2 1/2 tbsp chopped basil. 
Ragu alla Bolognese 

After 10 minutes you stir in 2 1/2 tbsp tomato paste, bring the mix to a boil again and simmer for 5 more minutes. 
Ragu alla Bolognese 

Add both cans of diced tomatoes, pour in the beef broth—or replace 1 1/2 cup of broth with red wine—sprinkle the basil in there, add 1/4 tsp pepper, 1 tsp salt and I’ve added 1/2 a tsp dried basil because I love the flavor it gives. Throw 2 bay leaves in there as well. 
Ragu alla Bolognese 

Bring the sauce to a boil, pop the lid on and put it in the oven. Let the sauce slowly simmer in the oven at 300F (160C) for 2 hours, until the sauce has cooked down and thickened. 

As soon as the sauce is done, you’ll see that the fat has accumulated on top. If you want to save yourself countless hours of research on how to unclog your arteries and prevent a fatal heart attack, skim it off and throw it away. Discard the bay leaves. 
Ragu alla Bolognese 

Until you’re left with an amazingly fragrant Bolognese sauce.
Ragu alla Bolognese 

Now of course you can serve it with pasta. But everybody does that. I don’t want to be like everybody, that’s why I dip my crusty bread in it and sigh. A big happy sigh. 
Ragu alla Bolognese

Kay’s Recipe Card

Click here for printable size.

Ragù alla Bolognese
Ingredients
  • 1 pound ground beef
    1 pound mixed ground pork/beef
    7 oz bacon or pancetta
    1 large onion
    2 celery stalks
    1 medium carrot
    2 garlic cloves
    2 14 oz cans diced tomatoes
    2 1/2 tbsp tomato paste
    2 cups milk
    1 tsp salt
    1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
    1/4 tsp pepper
    3 1/2 cups beef broth
    2 1/2 tbsp freshly chopped basil
    pinch of dried basil
    2 tbsp butter
    2 tbsp olive oil

    Optional: 1 1/2 cups broth can be replaced by red wine
Directions
  1. Preheat your oven to 300F (160C). Finely mince a large onion. Peel and finely chop the carrot. Finely chop your celery stalks (I peel them first) and grate or mince the garlic. Give the bacon a chop as well.

    Heat 2 tbsp butter and 2 tbsp olive oil and cook the bacon for 4 minutes. Add the carrot, celery, onion and garlic and cook the vegetables for 5 more minutes. Then add the meat. Cook it for 10 minutes while breaking it up with a spatula. Pour in 2 cups of milk, add 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg and bring to a boil. Simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes. Chop until you have 2 1/2 tbsp basil.

    After 10 minutes you stir in 2 1/2 tbsp tomato paste, bring the mix to a boil again and simmer for 5 more minutes. Add both cans of diced tomatoes, pour in the beef broth—or replace 1 1/2 cup of broth with red wine—sprinkle the basil in there, add 1/4 tsp pepper, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 a tsp dried basil and throw 2 bay leaves in there as well. Bring the sauce to a boil, pop the lid on and put it in the oven. Let the sauce slowly simmer in the oven at 300F (160C) for 2 hours, until the sauce has cooked down and thickened.

    As soon as the sauce is done, you’ll see that the fat has accumulated on top. Skim it off and discard the bay leaves.
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    47 Comments »

    1. 1

      This looks heavenly. I can’t wait to try it over the weekend.

      Corine on Jan 14, 2010 @ 12:28 pm Reply
    2. 2

      That looks delicious, too bad I don’t have one of those fancy oven safe Creuset pots :’(

      By the way, a possible fun little tip about that magazine: have you ever heard of Foodies Magazine? I’ve never really read one, but I always skim through it whenever I see one (just as Delicious magazine). Point is, they have this promotion for a year subscription for only 12 EUR now. So 1 EUR per edition, instead of the almost 5 EUR they ask in stores. No small print that I can detect, only that you have to stop the subscription yourself after a year or it will automatically continue. Thought you might be interested.

      Anyway, all your recipes look gorgeous, and they always turn out great! Especially the curried chicken puffs and chorizo bites that I made for my bday party flew off their platter :)

      Ilse on Jan 14, 2010 @ 2:04 pm Reply
      1. @Ilse:

        I think I’ve seen that magazine somewhere, probably the AH or so. Gonna buy one next time, but mainly I stick with my ancient cook books. Absolutely love those.

        Kay on Jan 14, 2010 @ 2:33 pm Reply
    3. 3

      Man oh man does this look good. Love the step by step photos.

      Julie on Jan 14, 2010 @ 4:33 pm Reply
    4. 4

      Wow! This looks amazing… and perfect for these cold, wet winter days.

      Julia M on Jan 14, 2010 @ 6:24 pm Reply
    5. 5

      nice! i suggest, instead of pasta, to boil water and add, slowly, maize. boil and stir and but as much maize as necessary to obtain a thick cornmush. i can’t explain very well in English what i want to say, sorry. but it’s a great, healthy alternative to bread and is also very tasty with sauce.

      can’t wait to try this new food on weekend!

      livia on Jan 14, 2010 @ 10:43 pm Reply
    6. 6

      Wow… that looks awesome! I really must try it!

      naomig on Jan 15, 2010 @ 12:15 am Reply
    7. 7

      I love all the ingredients that are in the sauce! Looks chunky and flavorful! Must try this.

      Sook on Jan 15, 2010 @ 12:53 am Reply
    8. 8

      Once again you have come thru for my planning a dinner party in a couple a Saturdays. Tried a few blognese recipes with something was missing. This one sounds rich in flavor.

      doodles on Jan 15, 2010 @ 6:09 am Reply
    9. 9

      You are right! 2 hours in the oven is a lot of time!

      Mrs Ergül on Jan 15, 2010 @ 9:20 am Reply
    10. 10

      This Ragù alla Bolognese (accent on the “u”) looks amazing! Wow. It looks so rich. I must combine this recipe with the other one I follow. YUM!

      Memoria on Jan 15, 2010 @ 9:30 am Reply
      1. @Memoria:

        You just made me grin because I had to take down the accent on the u. WordPress, webfeeds and the internet don’t seem to like our European way of writing :)

        Kay on Jan 15, 2010 @ 9:32 am Reply
    11. 11

      Your food photography is amazing, as well as your ability to style and cook it.

      Luna on Jan 15, 2010 @ 9:33 am Reply
    12. 12

      You’ve been having the acute accent issues too?

      Maria on Jan 15, 2010 @ 10:19 am Reply
      1. @Maria:

        Oh yeah, it’s really typical online. Especially when I have to use one in my title, which happens a lot. It messes up the feed, the html, everything. You can’t even normally tweet a posting that has an accent grave in it.

        Kay on Jan 15, 2010 @ 10:22 am Reply
    13. 13

      I don’t ever remember seeing a Bolognese recipe with milk in it. Very interesting! I’ll bet it adds a richness to the sauce, right? I’ll definitely give this a try soon. Thanks for another great recipe, Kay!

      Lana on Jan 15, 2010 @ 3:19 pm Reply
    14. 14

      This recipe sounds great — this is the second time I’ve been interested to see a recipe for tomato sauce with milk in it, and I think I must try it.

      But, when you bake the sauce, wouldn’t it reduce better withOUT the lid on the pan?

      Deb in Indiana on Jan 16, 2010 @ 2:54 am Reply
      1. @Deb:

        I think if you leave the lid off, you won’t have any sauce left and end up with dry minced beef. This was perfect, it cooked down quite a bit but there was still plenty sauce.

        Kay on Jan 16, 2010 @ 9:30 am Reply
    15. 15

      Try Cooks Illustrated…no fancy pics…no advertisements..mostly black and white actually and mostly drawings..and the best reviews and recipes on the market!!!!
      I know…sounds boring but it is the best!!!
      You can join the online community which would probably be best for you in Europe. They test cook everything about a squillion times…and come up with the best way to cook anything and everything!

      Sue on Jan 16, 2010 @ 8:23 am Reply
      1. @Sue:

        Have to say I’ve never seen a magazine called Cooks Illustrated here in Holland. Not sure if they sell it here.

        Kay on Jan 16, 2010 @ 9:31 am Reply
    16. 16

      Kay,

      With complete faith in your response (how great to get a response — thanks!), I tried the recipe this afternoon for a lasagna I am serving tomorrow.

      I made these changes (being constitutionally incapable of following a recipe exactly):
      – used a whole “gi-nourmous” onion, an additional stalk of celery and some extra garlic, and an extra tbsp. tomato paste
      – subbed 1 C white wine for some beef broth
      – didn’t have any fresh basil, so increased the dried
      – used Italian sausage (don’t know if you have this — it’s just an herbed/spiced minced pork — not cured) in place of the beef/pork mixture

      Oh, and I also drained off most of the fat before adding the liquids, because I find it easier to remove that way and I don’t think the flavor is affected.

      You are right — the mixture reduced just fine, and it turned out great. I think I like it better than my current “spaghetti sauce” recipe.

      Thanks again for the good recipe with the beautiful pictures.

      Deb in Indiana on Jan 17, 2010 @ 1:38 am Reply
      1. @Deb:

        This was the Delicious recipe as it was printed in the magazine, but since I love to tweak I’ll be making a few changes as well. Think I’ll add some finely chopped roasted red bell pepper, too, next time. I loved the flavor the red wine added, but I don’t allow my toddler to eat anything containing alcohol, so next time I’m leaving it out and replace it with beef broth. I’m also thinking about adding a few tbsp flour before pouring in the liquid, just to make the sauce a little bit thicker. As much as I like fresh basil, I’ve always loved the flavor of dried basil, I’ll add more of that as well.

        Kay on Jan 17, 2010 @ 9:11 am Reply
    17. 17

      That recipe sounds very similar to one I used to make for Bolognese years ago – I love the combination of beef broth, tomatoes, milk, nutmeg, etc. Really good stuff.

      Gabrielle on Jan 17, 2010 @ 2:38 am Reply
    18. 18

      This recipe reminds me very much of a Greek veal ragú.
      Your pictures are great and the result looks positively delicious.
      Magda

      my little expat kitchen on Jan 17, 2010 @ 11:39 pm Reply
    19. 19

      Oh my GOD! I can’t watch your pictures!!! Now I must run to our local store:))) Long time my teenager asks to me to make his favorite food – lasagna, and now I’m so inspired to make Bolognese by your way…

      Diana on Jan 20, 2010 @ 1:44 pm Reply
    20. 20

      Thank you for your lovely website and blog! I found you through foodgawker. I have this bolognese cooking in my oven right now, and the smells are soooooo good! I’m very tempted to go disturb, stir and taste, but I will wait until the 2 hours are done. :)

      I also made your pesto potatoes and they were excellent !!

      karin on Jan 20, 2010 @ 10:52 pm Reply
    21. 21

      I haven’t made bolognase in far too long, and I was craving it for months at the end of last year. I love having it on toast. Or with thick papadelle.

      LizzieBee on Jan 23, 2010 @ 6:33 am Reply
    22. 22

      Hi Kay,

      The magazine Cooks Illustrated is, as far as I know, not for sale in Holland, but it’s possible to get an online subscription on their site, http://www.cooksillustrated.com. It will give you access to all their published recipies and reviews. Don’t know the exact costs, but it might be interesting…

      Groetjes, Esther

      P.S. A quick note in Dutch: ik ben een grote fan van Delicious, maar ik kan me wel iets voorstellen bij jouw opmerking over de over-gelikte foto’s. :-) Je zou trouwens ook voor dat tijdschrift kunnen bellen met American Book Center in A’dam, misschien hebben zij het wel in hun assortiment. Succes!

      Esther on Jan 24, 2010 @ 8:09 pm Reply
      1. @Esther:

        Begreep inderdaad dat Cooks Illustrated hier niet te krijgen is! Heb je het laatste nummer gezien van de Delicious? Heb er doorheen gebladerd in de AH maar er stonden foto’s in die zo over de top waren, zo overbelicht en waarvan de kleuren zo gemanipuleerd waren dat het niets meer te maken had met food fotografie. Ze slaan steeds verder door. Echt jammer.

        Kay on Jan 24, 2010 @ 8:18 pm Reply
    23. 23

      Quick note from the 07675 (U.S. zip code). Made this, and it worked out VERY well.

      Best to you all,

      Jim

      Jersey Jim on Feb 8, 2010 @ 5:13 am Reply
    24. 24

      This looks so good! I worked at a pretty authentic Italian trattoria and their bolognesse was almost just like this-delicious.

      Stella on Feb 11, 2010 @ 1:21 am Reply
    25. 25

      Hello,
      The sauce taste greats, but it seems a bit thin, making it hard to stick to the pasta. Any way to thicken it up?

      jason on Feb 16, 2010 @ 8:02 am Reply

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