Every foodie has their favorite Bolognese sauce recipe and we are no different. This recipe is Marcella Hazan's classic Bolognese sauce, without modification.
If you are not aware, Marcella Hazan was an Italian-born cooking writer whose books were published in English. Her cookbooks are credited with introducing the public in the United States and Britain to the techniques of traditional Italian cooking. She was considered by chefs and fellow food writers to be one of the foremost authorities on Italian cuisine.
However, the term Bolognese means meat and that in itself gives you plenty of room for creativity. Using sweet or hot Italian sausage meat or just ground pork or combinations of those and other meats means you can truly make this your personal recipe.
The following picture is the Bolognese sauce before it is blended with the pasta.
We generally serve this with a penne pasta, however the choice of pasta is really up to you. I would recommend the use of a pasta with a hollow center because that allows the Bolognese sauce to end up inside the pasta.
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
4 tbsp. butter, divided
1/2 cup finely diced yellow onion
2/3 cup finely diced celery
2/3 cup finely diced carrots
3/4 lb. ground beef
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup whole milk
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1 cup vermouth
14 oz. whole Italian plum tomatoes, crushed (remove any hard ends)
Freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese at the table
8 oz. dried penne pasta, cooked per instructions*
*Note: Other pasta shapes such as rigatoni (see picture below) and paccheri also work well.
Put the oil, 3 tbsp. butter and onion in the pot and turn the heat on to medium. Cook and stir the onion until it has become translucent, then add the chopped celery and carrot. Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring the vegetables to coat them well.
Add ground beef, a large pinch of salt and a few grindings of pepper. Crumble the meat with a fork, stir well and cook until the beef has lost its raw, red color.
Add milk and let it simmer gently, stirring very frequently, until it has bubbled away completely. Add a tiny grating – about 1/8 teaspoon – of nutmeg and stir.
Add the vermouth, let it simmer until it has evaporated, then add the tomatoes and stir thoroughly to coat all ingredients well. When the tomatoes begin to bubble, turn the heat down so that the sauce cooks at the laziest of simmers, with just an intermittent bubble breaking through to the surface. Cook, uncovered, for 3 hours or more, stirring from time to time. While the sauce is cooking, you are likely to find out that it begins to dry out and the fat separates from the meat. To keep it from sticking, add 1/2 cup of water whenever necessary. At the end, however, no water at all must be left and the fat must separate from the sauce. Taste and correct for salt.
Toss with the cooked, drained pasta, adding the remaining tablespoon of butter and serve with freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano on the side.
The picture above is the Bolonese sauce served on rigatoni pasta. Rigatoni is a hollow pasta that is about twice the size of penne pasta.