Why bolognese is a versatile sauce that everyone loves

We like to serve this with dried rigatoni or fusilli, but it is delicious with fresh tagliatelle

Published February 1, 2020 5:08PM (EST)

Ragù alla Bolognese (Jennifer May)
Ragù alla Bolognese (Jennifer May)

Bolognese is a versatile sauce that everyone seems to love. I serve it with pasta, with polenta, or as my sauce for baked pasta or lasagna. Making it is a time-consuming process, so many people shy away from doing so at home, but they love to order it at Felidia. Though the sauce gets its name from the city of Bologna, it can be found in some form all around Italy. This recipe makes enough to sauce 2 pounds of dried pasta. After the sauce is cooked, you can divide it and freeze some for later if you're serving less. It's best to grind your own meat, but you can also buy ground beef, pork, and veal if you don't have a grinder. We like to serve this with dried rigatoni or fusilli, but it is delicious with fresh tagliatelle.


Recipe: Ragù alla Bolognese

Makes about 6 cups

  • 1 pound boneless beef chuck, cubed
  • 1 pound boneless pork shoulder, cubed
  • 1 pound boneless veal shoulder, cubed
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, grated
  • 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • Kosher salt
  • Peperoncino flakes
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • One 28-ounce can whole San Marzano tomatoes, crushed by hand
  • 1 pound dried rigatoni or fusilli
  • ½ cup freshly grated Grana Padano, plus more for serving

Grind the meats, using a meat grinder set to the coarse plate. Pour 6 cups water into a medium saucepan, and warm to a simmer over low heat. Heat a large Dutch oven over medium heat, then add the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the onion, carrot, and celery, and cook, stirring often, until tender but not browned, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Crumble in the ground meat and cook, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the meat gives up its juices, 15 to 18 minutes. Increase the heat to medium high to reduce away the juices and concentrate the flavor, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and peperoncino.

Return heat to medium. Clear a space in the pan, and add the tomato paste. Cook and stir the tomato paste in that spot for a minute, then stir into the meat. Pour in the red wine, and adjust heat to reduce the wine by half, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and enough of the simmering water just to cover the meat.

Simmer the sauce over low heat, adding water as needed to keep the meat just covered, until thick and very flavorful, 1½ to 2 hours. The longer you cook it, the better it will be.

When you're ready to serve, put 3 cups of the sauce in a large skillet and bring to a simmer. (Freeze the remaining sauce for another time. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add 1 pound of the dried pasta of your choice. When the pasta is al dente, drain, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking water. Add the hot pasta to the sauce, and toss to coat. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt if needed, and toss again, adding a little pasta water if it seems dry. Remove the skillet from the heat, sprinkle with the grated Grana Padano, and toss. Serve immediately.

If you decide to serve this sauce with a long pasta, when plating, use the tongs to twirl the pasta into the shape of a bird's nest. It will keep the pasta warmer and make for an attractive presentation. Spoon some Bolognese sauce into the center of the pasta mound. Put additional grated Grana Padano in a bowl for the table, in case your guests would like more cheese.

Like this recipe as much as we do? Click here to purchase a copy of Felidia: Recipes from My Flagship Restaurant.

By Lidia Bastianich

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