My collection of cookbooks grows with each must-have new release, but for truly traditional recipes, like this Bolognese, I reach for timeless old favorites. Italian Regional Cooking by Ada Boni is a coveted classic. Published in 1969, it’s an absolute treasure as Ada takes you through the different parts of Italy in a simple and approachable manner – she has a wonderful way of explaining regional differences in cooking methods and ingredients that always gets me into the kitchen.
A series of rainy days makes for perfect Bolognese weather. I love, LOVE, L-O-V-E Bolognese (do you get the point?). There’s just something about the rich, creamy texture of the pasta paired with a glass of Barolo — it’s cozy, yummy warmth on the table. Since I made the decision to step away from the scale this holiday season, I’m going for it. Come January, it might look and taste a little different around here, but for now it’s all about comfort and joy.
Bolognese Meat Sauce
Adapted from Italian Regional Cooking by Ada Boni
Makes about 2 pounds of sauce
3 tablespoons Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
2 onions, fine dice
2 carrots, fine dice
3 ribs of celery, fine dice
2-3 bay leaves
6 ounces pancetta, fine dice
Splash of brandy
12 ounces pork, rough ground
12 ounces ground sirloin, rough ground
4 ounces sweet Italian sausage
1 chicken liver, chopped (optional)
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 ½ cups dry white wine
4.5 ounces double concentrated tomato paste (I like San Marzano) — basically the whole tube
3 cups of water
½ cup half and half
Salt and pepper, to taste.
In a large-bottomed skillet, sauté the carrots, onion, and celery in the olive oil on medium-high heat for about 20 minutes, stirring often with a wooden spoon.
Note: This is called a soffrito. While it seems like a waste of time, it will really enhance your ragu – trust me and the countless generations of Italian Nonnas. If some browning occurs or you leave the stove to answer the phone, add some water and break up the brown bits at the bottom of the pan.
Next, add the bay leaves and the bacon. Continue to cook until the fat renders from the bacon and it gets somewhat crispy — about another 15-20 minutes.
Add the splash of brandy and scrape the bottom of the pan with your spoon. Add the rest of the meat (pork, sirloin and sausage), the salt, and black and red pepper. Cook the meat for about 20 minutes until browned; break apart the meat with your spoon as it cooks. Taste for seasoning.
Now add the wine and stir until the liquid evaporates by half. Whisk the tomato paste and water in a bowl, and pour it into the sauce. Stir to incorporate and partially cover. After the sauce has been cooking for 1 ½ hours, add the half and half and stir to incorporate.
Make your favorite pasta and toss it in a large bowl with the sauce. Add some Parmesan, and parsley, ontinuing to toss with tongs. Portion into shallow bowls, top with more Parmesan and parsley and serve.