As any Italian will tell you, a traditional bolognese (meat sauce) is just that–a meat lover’s gravy for pasta. Our American version tends to be a tomato sauce with meat in it. Usually, ground beef. There’s nothing wrong with that, as long as you don’t call it a bolognese.
The bolognese that I turn to when I want to make the men in my family happy (why are we such a stereotype?) is a recipe from, The Cook’s Bible by Christopher Kimball, Founder and Editor of Cook’s Illustrated Magazine. Those of you familiar with Cook’s Illustrated know that their recipes are tweaked and tested in countless of incarnations before the final version is printed. Food geeks, such as myself, love to read about why two tablespoons of vinegar works while three tablespoons is obviously way too many. Cook’s Illustrated delves into these such explanations.
In the case of this Bolognese Meat Sauce, The Cook’s Bible explains that milk has an affinity for tomatoes, reducing the acidity and adding smoothness and body to the sauce. Because this sauce requires long, slow simmering to bring out the flavors, I like to make it on a night that I am feeding the kids dinner but waiting to eat later with Gary. While they are sitting at the table (discussing the issues of the day with napkins on their laps and elbows off the table*), I do the minimal prep work and set the pot on the stove to simmer away. After 90 minutes, I’m left with a rich hearty sauce that, once cooled, can be stored in the refrigerator or freezer. This recipe can be doubled to result in more than one meal. Efficiency at its best. Enjoy!
*Don’t gag on your coffee, I’m just dreaming.
- 2 slices bacon
- 1 Tbls butter
- 1 Tbls olive oil
- 1 medium onion, peeled and diced
- 1 rib celery, diced
- 1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
- 1/2 lb ground beef
- 1/4 lb ground pork
- 1/2 c white wine
- 1 tsp salt, plus more to taste
- 2/3 c milk
- 2 tsp sugar
- 1/4 tsp dried marjoram
- dash nutmeg
- 1 can (28 oz) Italian plum tomatoes, drained and chopped
- freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1/4 c heavy cream, optional
- Heat the bacon in a large pot and remove when cooked; reserve bacon for another use.
- Pour off all but 1 Tbls of fat.
- Add butter and oil and increase the heat to medium-high.
- When foam subsides, add the onion and celery and reduce heat to medium.
- Cook for 8 minutes, until onion is very soft but not browned.
- Add the garlic and cook 1 minute.
- Reduce the heat to low and add the beef and pork, breaking it up with a wooden spoon.
- After 3-4 minutes, add the wine and 1 tsp salt--the meat should still be pink inside.
- Simmer for 5 minutes and then add the milk, sugar, marjoram, and nutmeg. Cook for 15 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes and simmer for 1 1/2 hours.
- Add freshly ground black pepper and salt, to taste.
- Add optional heavy cream just before serving or reheating if saving for a later use.
- The original recipe claims to make enough for 2 lbs of pasta but for my family (the way I pile the meat sauce on top of the pasta) it is enough for closer to 1 lb of pasta.
- Serve the sauce over cooked tubular pasta that has been lightly tossed in a good quality olive oil.