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October 18, 2009

Bolognese Sunday

Ragu Bolognese Dominic Armato

The best kind of Sunday.

UPDATE : As requested...

  Dominic Armato


what's your recipe for bolognese. (how long are you going to let it simmer?) i mean: everybody has their own variation...

I basically do Marcella Hazan's plus cured pork. I've been meaning to do a version with some liver for a long, long time but never quite manage to get around to it. Anyway, Hazan does this elaborate three step reduction where you first add the milk and let that reduce away to nothing, then the wine and let that reduce away to nothing, then the tomato and let that simmer REALLY low for a long time. I don't know that I buy her suggestion that cooking first in the milk "protects" the meat from the wine's harsher elements, but I've always gotten great results with it.

I simmer it until it's done :-)

Since it's three separate reductions and I do a massive quadruple batch every time, it takes forever. I got this on the stove around 10:00 this morning. It'll probably be done around 8:00 tonight.

Will you post a picture of it when it's done?

My recipe always contains a bit of bittersweet chocolate, raisins and balsamic, a trick I picked up in Tuscany. My Neapolitan grandmother would rise from dead and assault me if she knew. Happy Sunday to the Family Skillet Doux. Don't shovel too much snow.

Dom, You make me want to be a better cook!

Looks really nice. Bravo should hire you to take over the food porn shots. :)

Oh, thanks!

mmmMMMmmmMm. Fortunately I just had a big breakfast or I'd be painfully distracted by the thought of a nice hot lunch.

Mmmmm looks so good! Funny that you mention the wine/milk order - Hazan's first book (Classic Italian Cooking) has you add the wine first, and then the milk. But her updated version in Essentials of Italian Cooking switches it around. I've tried it both ways and I think I prefer wine then milk, but the difference is very subtle.

What kind of cured pork product do you use? Do you add it at the beginning and leave it in the whole time? I usually follow her recipe - or one of them, at least - to a T, so I'm really curious about this addition.

Looks very tasty. Don't you just love Sundays? They're my big day for cooking, too.

Mine has always had more of a ground beef ragout feel to it with the beef and spice components strongly in the forefront and the tomato in the far distance which is the style my favorite Bologneses have been in Italy and France. Nothing fancy but it is a hit with my friends and when it is their first time to try it they are always surprised at how meaty it is.

Anon Man... yeah, I think millions of Italians felt a disturbance in the force when you wrote that, but I can see it working :-)

Joanna... pancetta or guanciale. Usually the former. I chop it pretty finely and just add it along with the meat. It has plenty of time to render down while cooking away :-)

Danny... yeah, I almost feel dirty about the amount of tomato that I use, and I don't use very much. It's just a few cups of tomato in that massive pot. It's still a MEAT sauce, though, which is the whole point. I hate it when you order Ragu Bolognese somewhere and you get tomato sauce with some ground beef. Ugh.

How does a batch like that freeze? Might try it with 50/50 ground venison and hog. Been meaning to do that for some time.

Here's a copy of the dish.


Thanks, Dom. Yeah, its not classic Bolognese that way, but it really works well. Great for something rich and hearty.

Babyarm... freezes beautifully. That's why I make such a huge pot of it. I just ladle it into those cheap disposable tupperware containers and toss them in the freezer. Then it's a superquick dinner. Drop a brick into a pot and warm it gently, boil some pasta, toss with a little butter and add the sauce. It's obviously not quite the same as when it's fresh, but I'd say it's 85-90% of the way there until roughly the five or six week mark, when the quality seems to nosedive a bit. But even then, it's still perfectly tasty. Just not as awesome.

Dom - I haven't tried it with something as thick as a bolognese, but one of my favorite tactics is to freeze a sauce as cubes in the ice tray (covering the surface with plastic wrap to keep out odors). The increased surface area causes it to freeze faster, helping preserve the texture a bit better. It also makes it a little more convenient to warm up, as you can measure out how many 'cubes' you want to use. The downside is that higher surface area = more freezer burn (less of a problem with a 'liquid' sauce, but I imagine it would be a rather big problem for a meaty bolognese), so you need to individually wrap each cube in freezer paper or plastic wrap to reduce sublimination.

I've also heard that adding some wine helps, as the alcohol prevents ice crystals from destroying the meat, but have not been able to confirm it either by literature or experimentation. I have doubts because the alcohol content in wine seems too low to make a difference, and the added flavors would throw off the careful balance of the sauce you just created.

Hey Dom, can you pack some of that with dry ice and send to each of us? Great, thanks! :-D

Dreamboat... you'll have to run that by my wife. She's very protective of the Bolognese :-)

dominic: i'm late adding these questions, but
1. when you make 4 times the quantity, how do you deal with the nutmeg? a straight adjustment would be to add a whole teaspoon. (marcella recommends 1/8 teaspoon for her recipe)
2. marcella recommends a 2 beef to 1 pork proportion, if you're going to use pork at all. do you maintain that proportion with the pancetta?

and to anon man, if you're still reading over here: bittersweet chocolate? raisins, balsamic? wow! when do you add those and in what quantities? i've been making the marcella ragu for years. i like it a lot, but i've wondered about messing with the recipe a little, just to see ...

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