Ragù alla Bolognese

A classic Bolognese sauce of mince and fresh vegetables, gently sautéed with wine and tomatoes and accompanied by a pasta of your choice= perfect for just about any meal!

Preparation time: 10 minutesCooking time: 3 hours
Serves: 4Difficulty: Moderate

Ingredients

  • 300g/10.5oz/1 1/3 cup beef or plant-based mince
  • 100g/3.5oz/just over half a cup pancetta or pork or plant-based bacon, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 celery sticks
  • 2 onions
  • 200ml/2dl/1/3 pt/just under a cup of red or dry white wine
  • 300g/10.5oz/1 1/3 cups chopped tomatoes
  • Salt and pepper
  • 200ml/2dl/1/3 pt/just under a cup of water or vegetable broth
  • 120ml/1.2dl/1/4 pt/1/2 cup of milk
  • 300g/10.5oz/1 1/3 cups tagliatelle, gniocchi, pappardelle or fettuccine
  • Fresh basil (optional)
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano (optional)

Make it Vegan: Use plant based mince and bacon instead of meat, and use soya or oat milk instead of dairy milk. Make sure you use an unfiltered wine.

Special Equipment

  • A sharp knife
  • A cutting board
  • A large saucepan with lid, plus an extra saucepan

Instructions

  1. Peel the onions and carrots, then finely chop them along with the celery.
  2. Place a large saucepan on the hob over a medium heat. Add the mince and bacon to the pan and sauté gently, stirring occasionally, for a few minutes, until they begin to brown. Move the meats to the side of the pan and add the vegetables and oil. Sauté the vegetables for about ten minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Mix the meat into the vegetables and add the wine to the pan. Cook gently for a few minutes, of until the wine is evaporated.
  4. Add the tomatoes, salt and pepper to the pan and bring to a simmer. Put a lid on the pan, reduce the hob temperature to very low, and allow the ragù to sauté for about three hours. Stir occasionally while it’s cooking and add some broth or water to the pan if the ragù starts looking a little dry.
  5. When it’s nearly time to serve, bring a separate pan of water to the boil and cook the pasta for 9-12 minutes, or until it’s al dente.
  6. Stir the milk into the ragù and gently cook for a further 5 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat.
  7. Drain the pasta and serve straight away, topped with the ragù. If desired, add a sprig of basil to each bowl and sprinkle a very small amount of finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano on top.
  8. Buon Appetito!

Tips

  • If you’re in a rush, you can get away with sauteing the ragù for just 40 minutes or so- but the longer you allow the flavours to infuse, the better it tastes!
  • For extra tasty ragù, use homemade chopped tomatoes instead of tinned tomatoes. To do so, bring a pan of water to the boil. Take 6-8 large, fresh tomatoes. cut them in half and remove the core and seeds. Then boil the tomatoes in the water for one minute before removing them from the pan. Allow them to cool for a few seconds then gently pull off the loosened tomato skin. Chop up the remaining tomato flesh and add it to the ragù when ready.

Background

Home: Bologna, Emilia-Romagna, Italy
Pronunciation:
/raˈɡu ˈal.la bo.loɲˈɲe.ze/ (ra-goo all-la boh-luh-neiz)

Relatives: Ragù alla Napoletana (Naples, Italy), Ragoût (France)

History

Bologna is situated in Italy’s northern Emilia-Romagna region. Originally founded as an Etruscan settlement, Bologna passed between the Romans, Byzantines, Goths, Huns, Lombards and Carolingians before emerging as a free commune in the Lombard League in the 12th century. Mediaeval Bologna thrived as a centre of commerce and learning- its university, founded in 1088, is the oldest continually operating university in the world- but its political instability and high mortality rate during the Black Death, combined with neighbouring territories’ expansionist policies, eventually brought Bologna under papal control. This lasted until 1860, when Bologna joined the newly founded Kingdom of Italy.

A ragù is a slow cooked, meat based sauce. The Bolognese version, Ragù alla Bolognese– which can be distinguished from ragù from nearby Naples by its finer cuts of meat and lower onion-to-meat-ratio- is popular around the world. It’s particularly prized by American, British and German diners, who serve it with spaghetti, but Spaghetti Bolognese is not actually an authentic Bolognese dish: instead, Bolognese ragù would traditionally be used in Lasagna or Tagliatelle al Ragù.

Italian ragù probably derives from French Ragoût, a meat stew which may have been introduced to Emilia-Romagna when Napoleon occupied the region in 1796. Like Ragoût, ragù was initially eaten as a stew, alone or with bread. The earliest known instance of ragù being used as a pasta sauce in Emilia-Romagna was at the end of the 18th century, when Alberto Alvisi, cook for the Cardinal of Imola (later Pope Pius VII) served the cardinal Ragù per i maccheroni (‘Ragù for Pasta.’) Alvisi, who over the course of his career compiled a manuscript of around 50 recipes, named his recipe Il Ragù del Cardinale (‘The Cardinal’s Ragù.’)

The earlist ragù to be specifically characterized as ‘Bolognese’, Maccheroni alla bolognese‘ (lit. ‘Bolognese pasta’), was recorded by Pelegrino Artisi in his 1891 cookbook, La Scienza in Cucina E L’arte Di Mangiar Bene (‘Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well.’) Artusi, who was born and raised in Emilia-Romagna and studied in Bologna, called for a sauce of minced veal, pancetta, onion and carrot, browned in butter before being cooked in broth with dried mushroom, truffle and cream, then served with medium sized pasta and Parmigiano-Reggiano.

The recipe has continued to evolve since Arturi’s day, with tomatoes and wine now considered essential ingredients and tagliatelli now the Bolognesee pasta accompaniment of choice. In 1982, the Accademia Italiana della Cucina (Italian Academy of Cuisine) published an official authentic recipe for Ragù alla Bolognese, which can be accessed here.

Bologna
Ввласенко, Bologna Panorama , 2016 <https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bologna_Panorama.jpg&gt; [accessed 18/05/2020] (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en)
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