Some dishes are simply classics. They are the go-to recipes that you return to over and over again. In my family bolognese sauce is one of those recipes. Rarely does a week go by without our eating a steaming plate of pasta topped with rich bolognese sauce for dinner. Its comforting, satisfying and when I make a pot of the sauce over the weekend, becomes the perfect fast weeknight dinner.
I’ve adapted this recipe from Williams Sonoma’s Essentials of Italian. Its taken me years to find my right balance of meat, vegetables and sauce but I think I’ve finally found my magic combination. The key to a good sauce is long and slow cooking. The process just can’t be rushed if you want to achieve the perfect balance of flavor and texture. I’m also a fan of including a piece of parmesan rind in my sauce. Most people discard this hard remnant of cheese but I stash my leftovers in the freezer then pop one into my sauce while it simmers. It adds a richness and complexity that you just can’t find any other way. If you don’t have a parmesan rind on hand that’s ok to. Skip it for now but save it the next time you use up your hard parmesan cheese. Try it once and you too will be a convert.
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 ounces pancetta, chopped
1 large carrot, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 leek, quartered and thinly sliced
1/2 pound ground pork
1/2 pound lean ground beef
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 cup drained and chopped plum tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 beef bouillon cubes
1 cup water
1 cup milk
1 parmesan rind
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- Melt the butter in a large heavy pot set over medium-low heat.
- When the butter has melted add the pancetta, carrot, celery and leek. Stirring occasionally, cook for 15 to 20 minutes until the ingredients are golden brown and tender.
- Add the ground pork and ground beef to the pot and stir well.
- Raise the heat to medium and stirring often in order to break up the meat, cook until the meats are lightly browned and crumbled with most of the juices having evaporated. This should take about 20 minutes.
- Add the wine to the pot and scrape up any browned bits that are stuck on the bottom of the pot.
- Add in the tomatoes, tomato paste, bouillon cubes, water, milk, parmesan rind, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Stir well.
- Allow the mixture to just begin to simmer then reduce the heat to very low and continue to cook, uncovered and stirring occasionally for about 1 hour. If the mixture becomes too thick you can add in a bit more water.
- Partially cover the pot and continue cooking until the sauce is thick and dark brown, an additional 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
- Skim off any fat that floats to the surface of the sauce and serve over hot pasta. Alternatively, let cool, cover and store in an airtight container for up to 5 days. Reheat over low heat, additionally additional water or wine as necessary to get the right texture.
Yields 4 cups