To be honest, Bolognese is a bit of a luxury item in my home. It has three kinds of meat in it…. THREE! That, paired with the sheer amount I produce, makes it a pretty cost-prohibitive meal. But fuck it, this is worth the splurge.
The trick with Bolognese is the pancetta. It has to be pancetta. You can’t substitute it with prosciutto or un-smoked bacon. It has to be pancetta, AND you have to make sure that you render its fat without crisping it, which means not cooking it in any mixture that is composed more of that fat than anything else. It’s really not that complicated if you follow the recipe, but some people mess it up, so you know, follow the recipe.
The other trick is the red wine. It must must must be present, and it must be added when the mixture is at a temperature which is high enough to cook off the alcohol, and then given additional cooking time so that the flavors can really all mix together.
The final trick is the cooking of the past and the sauce together. The pasta must be only par-cooked in boiling water, and then added to the sauce and finish cooking there. Since the Bolognese is so rich and fatty, it will not adhere to the pasta unless the two are cooked together with a little bit of pasta water. This may seem to be Pasta Cooking 101, but it actually is easy to mess up, so again, pay attention to the recipe.
Intimidated? Don’t be! It’s really pretty simple, I promise. Give it a try and let me know what you think!
Butter Count: Only 1 Tbsp???
1 recipe of This Pasta, rolled thin and cut into 1-inch strips
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp butter
1/2 lb pancetta slices, 1/2-inch thick
1-1/2 lbs ground beef
1-1/2 lbs ground pork
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 large onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup red wine
28 oz can tomato puree
1 cup beef stock
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 Parmesan rind, about 2 inches
Grated Parmesan for garnish
Slice the pancetta into 1/2-inch cubes (a very sharp knife helps here).
Add the oil and butter to a large pot over medium-high heat. When the butter is melted, add the pancetta. When the pancetta fat is just beginning to become translucent, add the beef, pork, salt, and pepper. Break up the meat with a wooden spoon and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is evenly browned.
Add the onion, carrot, celery, and garlic, and cook about 5 minutes until the veggies are slightly softened.
Add the wine and stir to incorporate. Leave to cook about 5 minutes so that the alcohol can burn off.
Add the tomato puree, beef stock, heavy cream, and the Parmesan rind. Partially cover the pot and lower the heat to simmer. Stirring often (be sure to stir often. The wine and carrots have relatively high sugar content, which can lead to sticking and burning if not stirred), and periodically skimming any fat that collects at the top, simmer for about 4 hours.
Only after 4 hours, check for consistency. If it is too liquidy, remove the lid and increase the heat until the excess liquid thickens. If it is too thick, add 1/2 cups of additional beef stock and cook another 30 minutes to reduce it into the mixture. When the sauce is the right consistency, remove it from the heat completely.
In a separate pot, bring heavily salted water to a boil. Add the pasta. If using fresh pasta, cook about 1 minute. If using dried pasta, cook about 3 minutes.
Return the Bolognese to a simmer.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer the par-cooked pasta to the Bolognese pot, being as sloppy as possible so that pasta water is also transferred to the sauce. Use tongs to fully incorporate the pasta and sauce.
When the pasta has simmered in the sauce for about 2 minutes and is fully cooked (it will visibly plump up, but try a test piece to make sure it is fully cooked, just in case), remove it from heat and portion it out onto plates.
Grate fresh Parmesan over the plates if desired.