Bolognese is the first recipe I ever cooked out of a cookbook with Jess (wife)! It was my idea to make the sauce, unknowing that Jess was Buddhist and did not eat pork. I just thought, hey, I'm Italian and I have never actually made Bolognese sauce before, so let's do it! Jess, ever the angel, did not mention that she was morally averse to eating or cooking with pork, so she just helped chopping veggies and stirring the flavors together and we talked about Harry Potter. During that first misguided attempt, we added way too many liquids. Our tomatoes were too watery, our pork was too fatty, and we were much too heavy-handed with the red wine, so we ended up with a watery separated puddle that fell away from the meat and other more solid elements and barely stuck to the pasta with which we paired it. Jess politely pretended to love it.
Now I have learned my lesson and my Bolognese game recently made a triumphant comeback. The recipe below is rich and deeply savory. The wine imparts a subtle depth instead of the drunken bitterness it left in my first attempt at Bolognese. Added pasta water thickens the tomato base so that it can stick to pasta better. Ripe tomatoes take the sourness out and just provide a nice smooth vegetal back note, which is simultaneously bolstered and overshadowed by the salty pork and Parmesan. With this recipe, no one need feign satisfaction while shoveling every bite into their mouths.
Butter Count: 2 Tbsp
2 Tbsp butter
2 carrots, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 oz thick-cut pancetta, chopped
1/2 lb ground pork
1/2 lb ground beef chuck
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 cup canned Roma tomatoes, drained and chopped
2 Tbsp tomato paste
2 1/2cups beef stock
1 cup whole milk
1/8 tsp nutmeg, grated
1. Melt the butter in a heavy pot over medium-low heat. Add the carrots, celery, onion, garlic, and pancetta. Cook about 30 minutes, stirring often, until the vegetables are deep brown, adding a tablespoon of water every so often if the mixture begins to burn at all.
2. Add the pork and beef to the pot and mix the ingredients thoroughly. Raise the heat to medium. Cook, breaking up the meat and stirring often, about 20 minutes, until the liquids have evaporated fully and the meat is browned.
3. Add the wine and scrape off all the browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Cook about 2 minutes until the wine has evaporated. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, beef stock. milk, and nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper. Bring the sauce to a simmer, then lower the heat to the lowest it will go and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, about 2 hours.
4. When the sauce is fully developed and super rich, skim the fat off the top and immediately add it to cooked pasta and serve.