Bolognese Sauce

Tagliatelle al Ragù

This sauce is a million miles from the ‘Bol’ that we Brits like to serve with pasta, which is about as close to the real McCoy as our chile con carne is to a true version. It is orange, not red; it is more oil- than water-based, it is delicate, aromatic, creamy and subtle. This is one of many recipes where the cooking technique is so much more important to the finished dish than the ingredients — buy best-quality pancetta and Parmesan, spend as much money as you can afford on the eggs and flour for your pasta (or the packaged tagliatelle), and the few pennies remaining on the other ingredients. There are words to describe how good this is, but they shouldn’t appear in print…

Ingredients

  • 800 g dried, or 1 kg fresh, tagliatelle (made with the simple or enriched egg doughs)
  • about 50 g grated Parmesan, to serve

    Ragù Bolognese

  • 500 g minced pork
  • 500 g minced veal (or beef)
  • 100 g chicken livers, finely chopped (optional)
  • 1 carrot (200 g)
  • 2 sticks celery (200 g)
  • 1 medium onion (200 g)
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 100 g butter
  • 60 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 100 g pancetta (not smoked), cut in strips
  • 375 ml white wine
  • 600 ml milk
  • 400 g chopped tinned tomatoes
  • 250 ml beef or chicken stock (optional, otherwise 250 ml milk)

Method

It is worth having a butcher mince the meats coarsely (8mm), for the improved texture. Peel and dice the carrot, dice the celery, chop the onion and slice the garlic. Take a very wide frying pan (30cm), and melt the butter in the oil over a medium heat. Add the vegetables and pancetta along with a good pinch of salt and sauté for 10–15 minutes until softened. Increase the heat to high and add the meat in four or five additions, allowing time for any water to evaporate, stirring and breaking up any lumps with a spoon. After the last addition, wait until the pan starts to splutter slightly, then decrease the heat to medium and fry, stirring occasionally, until the meat has browned with a fair proportion of crispy bits – about 15–20 minutes. Deglaze with the wine, then transfer to a saucepan along with the milk, tomatoes and stock as well as a good grinding of pepper and more salt to taste. Cook at a very gentle simmer, uncovered, for about 4 hours until the sauce is thick, more oil- than water-based (add a little stock or water if it dries too much or too quickly). When ready, the liquor will be as thick as double cream and, stirred up, the whole should be somewhat porridgy. Adjust the seasoning one last time.

The addition of bay and/or dried chilli flakes along with the meat is heretical, but not displeasing. This recipe yields 1.75 litres, enough for 800–900g pasta; use 400ml for 200g dried or 260g fresh tagliatelle.

Heat the ragù in a frying pan with a little pasta water. Drain the boiled pasta when marginally undercooked, then add to the sauce to finish cooking for about 20 seconds, with knobs of butter. Serve with grated Parmesan on top.

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