Ragu alla Bolognese

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There aren’t many things I find more comforting than fresh pasta with a rich, hearty sauce. This recipe takes several hours (about 4) but it is worth it. I usually make this sauce on a weekend, when I am doing stuff around the house and can keep an eye on it, but can get things done while it simmers away. It doesn’t hurt that it will make your house smell incredible!

This sauce would be perfect over a fresh cut pasta.

**I doubled the recipe, so in the photos it will appear that there is more than listed in the recipe.**

Ingredients:

  • 1 (14-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes in juice, preferably San Marzano
  • 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon beef base or 1 beef bouillon cube
  • 1 celery rib, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 medium onion, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 medium carrot, roughly chopped
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 ounces sweet Italian sausage, casing removed
  • 2 ounces pancetta or slab bacon, finely chopped
  • 3/4 pound ground beef (not lean)
  • 3/4 pound ground pork
  • 1/2 pound ground veal
  • sea salt
  • freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • freshly grated nutmeg

Puree tomatoes and their juice in a blender until smooth and set aside.

In a small saucepan, bring 1-1/2 cups water to a simmer; whisk in tomato paste and beef base. Remove from heat; set aside. Make a battuto by finely chopping together celery, onion, and carrot.

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In a large saucepan, heat butter over medium-low heat until melted and foaming; add battuto, sausage and pancetta. Cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until sausage is broken into small bits, then continue cooking, stirring frequently, until vegetables are softened (do not brown), about 25 minutes.

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Add beef, pork, and veal; increase heat to medium. Cook, stirring until meat is broken into small bits then season lightly with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring constantly for 10 minutes more (do not brown).

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Add wine; bring to a boil and cook until wine and juices in pot are mostly evaporated, 3 to 5 minutes. Add reserved pureed tomato, reserved beef base mixture and bay leaf.

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Cook ragu at the barest simmer, stirring occasionally (making sure to stir into edges of pot), until meat is very tender and sauce is thick (as sauce thickens, add water, bit by bit, if necessary, to keep sauce moist and just barely liquid), about 2-1/2 hours.

Add milk and continue cooking 30 minutes more. Stir in pinch of nutmeg. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve with fresh pasta. Trust me on this. Even if you don’t make the pasta yourself, dried pasta just won’t do! I like to cook the pasta al dente, while warming the sauce in a wide sautĂ© pan. Add the pasta and toss to combine. The pasta will hold onto the sauce and marry beautifully. Drown in Parmesan if that’s your thing. If that’s not your thing, I don’t think we could be friends.

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