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eG Cook-Off 57: Bolognese Sauce

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#31 phatj

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Posted 09 November 2011 - 09:42 AM

Hm... seems my idea of a Bolognese sauce was a little off - I thought of it as a tomato sauce with meat and mirepoix and milk. Seems like the "traditional" recipes use far less tomato than I have when I've made it. I'd like to try this.

#32 Mjx

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Posted 09 November 2011 - 09:43 AM


The absorption still won't be significant enough to make a difference...


... and you've never had a nice pot of meat sauce that seemed just right, then mixed it with the pasta and found the combination dry, because there wasn't enough liquid left after the noodles got their share ?


Nope. But that may have as much to do with how I like my pasta sauced (i.e. lightly).


I'm still curious about the wine: I can't think of any recipe other than the one in CI (mentioned upthread), and although I've used both white and red, I'd lover to hear a cogent argument for either one; I realize white is traditional, but I've had excellent results with red, too, which is arguably more often used in things that contain a high proportion of beef.
Is there any indication that earlier iterations used little or no beef?

. . . .

Would rabbit meat be considered in making this? They are called Hares in italy..curious?

paul


I'm confused: Rabbit is 'coniglio', and hare is 'lepre', and they're both used in cooking, but I'm not getting how one would be called the other..?

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#33 Paul Bacino

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Posted 09 November 2011 - 10:00 AM

One of the neighbors where I stayed in Italy brought in a Hare ( I think they are larger ) for us to cook ( I'm not saying we made Bolognese with it ). But, I don't have access to Hare here, so rabbit would be my closest species to try in making a meat sauce . That's all I'm saying.

Cheers

I was just curious of.. rabbit would be an acceptable protein ?
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#34 FrogPrincesse

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Posted 09 November 2011 - 10:22 AM

Interesting thread. I've always wanted to research Bolognese sauce and understand its key components. Now I realize that I have never used milk in my meat-based pasta sauces. I will have to try that.

My process for Ragù Bolognese hasn't changed much from the one I posted back in 2003:

Cream is too rich for this dish, IMO. I soften a fine dice of onion, carrots and celery (at 2:1:1) in copious amounts of evoo and butter (at 1:1), then throw in home ground beef, veal, pork and pancetta (at 3:3:3:1). Once the meats have lost their red color, in goes white wine to barely cover. After that cooks out, in goes plenty of milk, several Parmigiano rinds from the freezer and maybe a tablespoon of tomato paste. This simmers for several hours (often in the Crock Pot). Towards the end, I'll add a tiny grating of nutmeg and correct the seasonings. It's done when the fat starts to separate from the meat. I might swirl in a little butter just before serving.


Sam - Is it correct that you don't add any canned tomatoes or tomato puree, just the tomato paste?

#35 heidih

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Posted 09 November 2011 - 10:31 AM

I was just curious of.. rabbit would be an acceptable protein ?


My mother in law (now deceased), swore by the recipe she learned in Northern California from families in the large immigrant Italian population. Rabbit was one of the proteins. My memory is hazy but I seem to recall at least 5 different meats.

#36 slkinsey

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Posted 09 November 2011 - 10:48 AM

Sam - Is it correct that you don't add any canned tomatoes or tomato puree, just the tomato paste?

Correct. Ragù Bolognese is not a tomato-ey sauce at all.

I was just curious of.. rabbit would be an acceptable protein?

My mother in law (now deceased), swore by the recipe she learned in Northern California from families in the large immigrant Italian population. Rabbit was one of the proteins. My memory is hazy but I seem to recall at least 5 different meats.

The problem with coniglio (rabbit -- generally cultivated) is that it is a fairly tender and lean meat, and tends to dry out with extended cooking. Lepre (hare -- generally wild) is tougher and gamier, although probably not much fattier, and might do better at this sort of thing. But I doubt it would be all that great. Imagine making a long-cooked ragù of ground chicken thighs and you get some idea. Now... I have an Italian friend whose grandmother used to save the ears from all the rabbits she cooked, and when she had enough of them she would make a long-cooked rabbit ear ragù. Lots of gelatin in ears.

Edited by slkinsey, 09 November 2011 - 10:51 AM.

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#37 Mjx

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Posted 09 November 2011 - 10:59 AM

One of the neighbors where I stayed in Italy brought in a Hare ( I think they are larger ) for us to cook ( I'm not saying we made Bolognese with it ). But, I don't have access to Hare here, so rabbit would be my closest species to try in making a meat sauce . That's all I'm saying.

Cheers

I was just curious of.. rabbit would be an acceptable protein ?


Ah, got it! I haven't seen either listed in any traditional recipe, but who cares? Either one would be delicious, and sounds like a great idea (the long, slow reduction essentially braises the meat, which is ground, finely chopped, or shredded anyway, so any toughness/dryness issues would be circumvented)

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#38 David Ross

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Posted 09 November 2011 - 11:50 AM

While searching for traditional Bolognese recipes, I turned to my friend, Chef Luciano Pellegrini for some advice. Chef Pellegrini is a James Beard Award-Winner and the Chef of Valentino at the Venetian in Las Vegas.

Chef Pellegrini gave me these recommendations for Bolognese-
-The main meat element should always be beef. However, game isn't out of the question. I told Chef I had some nice ground venison I got from a friend. (Harvested off a large Illinois White Tail). If I use venison, the dish becomes "Ragu di Cervo all Bolognese."

-While pancetta is traditionally put into Bolognese, in the restaurant kitchens of Valentino other cured meats are regularly used. They make a variety of salumi in-house at Valentino, so it's not unusual that they will add prosciutto or butt end cuts of mortadella to the Bolognese pot.

#39 David Ross

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Posted 09 November 2011 - 11:55 AM

I chose not to add milk or cream to my Bolognese, but Chef Pellegrini said that cream, while not strictly traditional, is a very popular addition to Bolognese, making the finished sauce "Bolognese all Panna." (With cream).

-The "tomato element." In the restaurant kitchen they use both tomato paste/puree to thicken the Bolognese and fresh, peeled tomatoes. Apparently the traditional homemade Bolognese only employs tomato paste/puree--not fresh, diced, stewed or whole tomatoes, simply puree and just enough to flavor and thicken the sauce. In the restaurant, they are making literally gallons of Bolognese which calls for them to use large quantities of both fresh tomatoes and tomato paste/puree.

-Chef Pellegrini recommends fresh, flat-style pastas with Bolognese like pappardelle or tagliatelle. I could only find dried pappardelle and tagliatelle and it worked well with the finished Bolognese. But I found a third pasta, a somewhat unknown flat-shaped dried pasta, that was for me a revelation and the perfect pasta for Bolognese. You'll see it in my upcoming Cook-Off photos.

#40 ScottyBoy

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Posted 09 November 2011 - 12:15 PM

Oh this will be fun! I've adapted my recipe starting with the wild boar ragu I used to make at an Italian restaurant but of course changed it up enough to make it my own.

Looking through the recipes and videos it looks like a big mix of all of them. I've very busy starting today so I hope to work it in. How long does a cook-off go on for?
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#41 David Ross

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Posted 09 November 2011 - 12:21 PM

Oh this will be fun! I've adapted my recipe starting with the wild boar ragu I used to make at an Italian restaurant but of course changed it up enough to make it my own.

Looking through the recipes and videos it looks like a big mix of all of them. I've very busy starting today so I hope to work it in. How long does a cook-off go on for?

Great! We'll look forward to your Bolognese, and don't worry about any time frame. Like a great Bolognese, Cook-Offs and our conversations evolve over time. That leads to deeper discussion and in the end, we'll learn more from each other. I made my Bolognese last weekend, and I'll probably start posting some photos soon.

#42 FrogPrincesse

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Posted 09 November 2011 - 12:39 PM

Here are a few interesting tidbits that I found on Wikipedia while trying to understand the specificity of Bolognese sauce versus Ragu in general.

Like its equivalent in Bologna, the Neapolitan type is also made from three main parts: a soffritto, meat, and tomato sauce. However, a major difference is how the meat is used as well as the amount of tomato in the sauce. Bolognese version uses very finely chopped meat, while the Neapolitan version uses whole meat, taking it from the casserole when cooked and serving it as a second course or with pasta. Also, the soffritto contains much more onion compared to the Bolognese. Preferences for ingredients also differ. In Naples, white wine is replaced by red wine, butter by lard or olive oil, and lots of basil leaves are used where Bolognese ragù has no herbs. In the Neapolitan recipe the content may well be enriched with adding raisins, pine nuts, and involtini with different fillings. Milk or cream is not used, and a relative abundance of tomato sauce in flavour, in contrast to Bolognese use of a minimal amount , is preferred. The tomato season is of course much longer in Southern Naples than in Northern Bologna. Like the Bolognese, Neapolitan ragù also has quite a wide range of variants, the most well-known of which is ragù guardaporta (doorman's ragù).

It is interesting to note that Bolognese sauce (or, more often, a kind of tomato-and-ground-beef sauce named this way) is used with tagliatelle, which is a fresh egg pasta, in Italy, but outside of Italy for spaghetti, a dry southern pasta. In Italy the kind of ragù used with pasta types like spaghetti, bucatini, and ziti is always the Neapolitan one.



#43 heidih

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Posted 09 November 2011 - 01:14 PM

David - I think you are a fan of the Time Life Foods of the World series. I pulled out Italy and found this ingredient list for Ragu Bolognese (Northern Italian meat sauce):

1/2 lb. smoked ham
chopped - 1 c. onion, 1/4 c. carrot, 1/2 c. celery
4T butter,
2 T olive oil
3/4 lb beef round ground twice
1/4 lb. lean pork ground twice
1/2 c. white wine
2 c. beef stock
2 T tomato paste
1/2 lb chicken livers
1 c. heavy cream
pinch nutmeg + salt & pepper

The sauce is simmered for 45 minutes after the vegetables and meat are browned. Livers are sauteed in some of the butter and chopped - added 10 minutes before done along with the cream.

I had this in the back of my mind from eons ago as the liver addition intrigued. I am anxious to see the variations everyone present. I have no history with the sauce other than what I think of as the standard American ground beef, onion, garlic, tomato paste and puree, with oregano and basil as the herbs. I did often use ground pork and/or added sausage meat.

#44 nickrey

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Posted 09 November 2011 - 01:55 PM

Australian Gourmet Traveller ran an article entitled "Battle of the Bol" in which they discussed the sauce and collected recipes from 60 of Australia's top chefs. Link here. Hope it works from your location.

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#45 Shelby

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Posted 09 November 2011 - 02:58 PM

Interesting!


I have never used milk or cream in my sauce. AND, I'm learning that mine is waaaaay too tomato-y to be considered here.

#46 David Ross

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Posted 09 November 2011 - 03:29 PM

David - I think you are a fan of the Time Life Foods of the World series. I pulled out Italy and found this ingredient list for Ragu Bolognese (Northern Italian meat sauce):

1/2 lb. smoked ham
chopped - 1 c. onion, 1/4 c. carrot, 1/2 c. celery
4T butter,
2 T olive oil
3/4 lb beef round ground twice
1/4 lb. lean pork ground twice
1/2 c. white wine
2 c. beef stock
2 T tomato paste
1/2 lb chicken livers
1 c. heavy cream
pinch nutmeg + salt & pepper

The sauce is simmered for 45 minutes after the vegetables and meat are browned. Livers are sauteed in some of the butter and chopped - added 10 minutes before done along with the cream.

I had this in the back of my mind from eons ago as the liver addition intrigued. I am anxious to see the variations everyone present. I have no history with the sauce other than what I think of as the standard American ground beef, onion, garlic, tomato paste and puree, with oregano and basil as the herbs. I did often use ground pork and/or added sausage meat.

You know me very well. That's exactly the cookbook I settled on for my Bolognese recipe. I did make a few changes however. I used pancetta instead of "smoked ham." I added some fresh garlic once the Bolognese meat and soffritto were combined and I added some dried basil and oregano. I kept the cream out and bumped up the wine by about 1/3 cup. I used white wine, but next time I'll try red for a more full-bodied Bolognese.

#47 Shelby

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Posted 09 November 2011 - 05:52 PM

Ok, after much discussion with my husband, I'm going to use the following meats:

Ground venison (we shot last winter--we just ground some more up out of venison roasts that we weren't eating and we were out of venison burger. I bought some 75% beef burger to grind up with it.)

Store bought pork sausage

Ground teal and mallard duck that my husband shot over the weekend and is breasted out, ready to do something with in my fridge.

Tomorrow or Friday I will grind up the duck and take pics.

OH and edited to add, I have 1/2 lb. of bacon that I will use, also.

Edited again to say that we think the duck addition might be interesting.....kind of similar to the liver.

Edited by Shelby, 09 November 2011 - 06:04 PM.


#48 David Ross

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Posted 09 November 2011 - 06:31 PM

Ok, after much discussion with my husband, I'm going to use the following meats:

Ground venison (we shot last winter--we just ground some more up out of venison roasts that we weren't eating and we were out of venison burger. I bought some 75% beef burger to grind up with it.)

Store bought pork sausage

Ground teal and mallard duck that my husband shot over the weekend and is breasted out, ready to do something with in my fridge.

Tomorrow or Friday I will grind up the duck and take pics.

OH and edited to add, I have 1/2 lb. of bacon that I will use, also.

Edited again to say that we think the duck addition might be interesting.....kind of similar to the liver.

Sounds delicious. I loved the taste of wild Mallard when I was in my duck hunting days. I think it will add some dark, richness. If you've got enough other fat in the meat mixture, the Mallard should be fine without being dry.

#49 ScottyBoy

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Posted 09 November 2011 - 08:38 PM

Shelby - Had to look up what "Teal" was!

Looking forward to your game version of this classic!
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#50 Blether

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Posted 09 November 2011 - 10:16 PM

... Nope. But that may have as much to do with how I like my pasta sauced (i.e. lightly).


Well, I can't agree with you more that pasta shouldn't be over-sauced, or cooked gummy, or the sauce so watery that no pasta or method will redeem it. It does seem to me that lightly-sauced pasta is more likely to end up dry than heavily-sauced, though.

For me, the sauce consistency - and matching it with the pasta and the way of combining them - is very important. I've been served meat sauce pasta that's quite dry and that affects my enjoyment of it - of course it may be perfect to someone else's taste. At the other end of the scale, whilst I enjoy a bowl of ramen when I'm hungry, that noodles-in-lots-of-thin-soup isn't a natural for me at all. Give me a sauce with some body, and enough liquid to keep the dish moist.

Dunno if there's Bolognese in my near future. but I'm looking forward to seeing everyone's results.

Edited by Blether, 09 November 2011 - 10:17 PM.


#51 David Ross

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Posted 10 November 2011 - 05:18 AM


... Nope. But that may have as much to do with how I like my pasta sauced (i.e. lightly).


Well, I can't agree with you more that pasta shouldn't be over-sauced, or cooked gummy, or the sauce so watery that no pasta or method will redeem it. It does seem to me that lightly-sauced pasta is more likely to end up dry than heavily-sauced, though.

For me, the sauce consistency - and matching it with the pasta and the way of combining them - is very important. I've been served meat sauce pasta that's quite dry and that affects my enjoyment of it - of course it may be perfect to someone else's taste. At the other end of the scale, whilst I enjoy a bowl of ramen when I'm hungry, that noodles-in-lots-of-thin-soup isn't a natural for me at all. Give me a sauce with some body, and enough liquid to keep the dish moist.

Dunno if there's Bolognese in my near future. but I'm looking forward to seeing everyone's results.

I think those are good points, i.e., the thickness of Bolognese as it relates to the pasta. The characteristics of Bolognese are a thick, chunky, deep-flavored sauce--much headier than a basic tomato sauce. In my mind that calls for a sturdy pasta, not sturdy as in raw or too al dente but sturdy as in the thickness of the flat pasta. You want a bold noodle to hold up to a bold sauce and you want a balance between the two so in every bite you taste both pasta and sauce.

Another element we should talk about is the cheese. Most of the Bolognese recipes I saw didn't call for any cheese to garnish the finished dish. I added only a small shower of finely grated parmesan on top of my Bolognese and pasta. Again, the bold flavors of the Bolognese should shine through, not a glump of sauce, too many noodles and a clod of cheese.

#52 Paul Bacino

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Posted 10 November 2011 - 05:25 AM

For those that intended to use paste, Will you use the Pincage ( Toasting the paste ) method that was discussed a few threads ago, about frying tomato paste?

Paul

I think I'm going to make 2-3 different ragu sauces, adjusting the contents in each to compare. Probably adjusting proteins and stocks.
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#53 Mjx

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Posted 10 November 2011 - 06:05 AM

For those that intended to use paste, Will you use the Pincage ( Toasting the paste ) method that was discussed a few threads ago, about frying tomato paste?

Paul

I think I'm going to make 2-3 different ragu sauces, adjusting the contents in each to compare. Probably adjusting proteins and stocks.


Since the tomato paste is added along the way, instead of being there from the start, it would require doing separately and I'm not sure that the relative quantity involved would make this worth it.

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#54 slkinsey

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Posted 10 November 2011 - 06:07 AM

For those that intended to use paste, Will you use the Pincage ( Toasting the paste ) method that was discussed a few threads ago, about frying tomato paste?

I don't bother for two reasons: (1) I don't use enough of it to make much difference either way; and (2) the sauce cooks long enough to transform the paste anyway.

The latter effect is even true of tomato-based sauces. At some point as I was learning my best friend Joe Graziano's mother's traditional long-cooked Italian-American "Sunday gravy" style sauce, I realized that a big part of getting the right flavor was to simmer the sauce long enough that it transformed from red to brick-red (i.e., some species of red-brown) due to Maillardization.
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#55 CalumC

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Posted 10 November 2011 - 06:55 AM

I suspect you'll have trouble watching it in America because of the licensing, but Jamie Oliver is doing a series at the moment about food cultures that have entered Britain, and this weeks involved italian. He made a bolognaise in the way that he thought an Italian would, that is to say, using whatever is available, and not much of it (because they probably couldn't afford a great deal). In this case, he cooked a whole rabbit in a pot with two cans of tomatoes, a whole onion, 2 whole carrots and a few other bits and bobs, then some stock or water. Cook that overnight at 110C (250F?), or use a crockpot, as you've been discussing, then in the morning, shredding all the meat off the rabbit carcasse, squeezing out the now soft onion flesh, mashing the carrots and finishing off with parmesan. I think combining this philosophy with the traditional ingredients and techniques (milk, wine).

If you wanted to take it a step further then i'd definitely watch the Heston Blumenthal episode on it, theres some great ideas on building layers of flavour in that.

#56 Paul Bacino

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Posted 10 November 2011 - 08:19 AM

CalumC,

I just look @ jamie's recipe you mentioned !!This looks like something to try. I'm in on this one.
Except I'm going to change out the beer thing!!

Paul

Edited by Paul Bacino, 10 November 2011 - 08:21 AM.

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#57 Shelby

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Posted 10 November 2011 - 08:40 AM

Shelby - Had to look up what "Teal" was!

Looking forward to your game version of this classic!



Oops, sorry. I should have been more descriptive. I forget that you all don't live in my brain :laugh: .

Teal is my favorite kind of duck. It's very mild and tender.

#58 Mjx

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Posted 10 November 2011 - 08:43 AM

I suspect you'll have trouble watching it in America because of the licensing, but Jamie Oliver is doing a series at the moment about food cultures that have entered Britain, and this weeks involved italian. He made a bolognaise in the way that he thought an Italian would, that is to say, using whatever is available, and not much of it (because they probably couldn't afford a great deal). In this case, he cooked a whole rabbit in a pot with two cans of tomatoes, a whole onion, 2 whole carrots and a few other bits and bobs, then some stock or water. Cook that overnight at 110C (250F?), or use a crockpot, as you've been discussing, then in the morning, shredding all the meat off the rabbit carcasse, squeezing out the now soft onion flesh, mashing the carrots and finishing off with parmesan. I think combining this philosophy with the traditional ingredients and techniques (milk, wine).

If you wanted to take it a step further then i'd definitely watch the Heston Blumenthal episode on it, theres some great ideas on building layers of flavour in that.


It sounds good, and very likely something that might be done, but might not be called a bolognese sauce in Italy; at the very least, one person calling it that would kick off an involved and extended discussion of what defines a bolognese sauce, and what puts it beyond the margins of the name (I've heard plenty of such discussions, the most recent having revolved around how the addition of onion to, I think, carbonara, made it something else, and could not be called 'carbonara'... no maybe, or alternative, just 'not'!).

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#59 slkinsey

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Posted 10 November 2011 - 09:05 AM

I love Heston Blumenthal's bolognese episode of 'In search of perfection'. For those interested it can be viewed on Youtube in 3 parts:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Having watched all three parts, I have to say that this doesn't particularly seem very much like Ragu Bolognese to me. Rather it seems like some highly evolved version of "spag bol," the English bowdlerization of tagliatelle al ragù Bolognese (and for what it's worth, he's quite clear that he's riffing on the English dish, not the Italian one).

It's a meat sauce. And its served with pasta. And it has some similarities with Bolognese, but I can't imagine it tastes all that much like the real thing (this seems to be borne out by the taster who can detect the flavor of star anise). It's unclear to me what is to be gained from his methods if one would like to make an actual ragù Bolognese. Cut the star anise and all the herbs, to begin with. Cut the sherry vinegar and fish sauce and ketchup. And then what one is left with is a fairly traditional Bolognese, made with chopped pork and ground oxtail, that uses a kind of tomato compote rather than tomato paste or canned tomato product (although to my eye the amount that he uses would make the end product too tomato-ey, but then again maybe that's how it is in
England).

... [Jamie Oliver] cooked a whole rabbit in a pot with two cans of tomatoes, a whole onion, 2 whole carrots and a few other bits and bobs, then some stock or water. Cook that overnight at 110C (250F?), or use a crockpot, as you've been discussing, then in the morning, shredding all the meat off the rabbit carcasse, squeezing out the now soft onion flesh, mashing the carrots and finishing off with parmesan. I think combining this philosophy with the traditional ingredients and techniques (milk, wine).

It sounds good, and very likely something that might be done, but might not be called a bolognese sauce in Italy . . .

Michaela is spot-on, I think. There are many different kinds of ragu. But not many different kinds of ragu Bolognese. It's a bit like saying, "Jamie Oliver made this really interesting chicken fried steak using catfish."

Edited by slkinsey, 10 November 2011 - 09:09 AM.

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#60 mgaretz

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Posted 10 November 2011 - 10:02 AM

Not sure how "Bolognese" this is, but here's my recipe:

Ingredients
(makes enough to serve 4-8)

1 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes (or 6-8 fresh ripe tomatoes, peeled and diced)
1 6 oz can of tomato paste
1 tsp Italian seasoning blend
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tbs sugar
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 medium onion, fine diced
1 large carrot, peeled and fine diced
1 large celery rib, fine diced
1/4 cup sweet marsala wine
1 tbs olive oil
1/2 lb lean ground beef

In a large sauté pan over medium heat, sauté the onions, carrots and celery in the olive oil until softened, about 8-10 minutes. Add in the seasoning blend and garlic and sauté another minute or so. Stir in the marsala to deglaze the pan, then add the tomatoes, tomato paste, salt, pepper and sugar, stiring well to combine. Bring back to a simmer and stir in the ground beef, breaking it into small pieces. Simmer on low for another 30-40 minutes.

Can be served immediately but it's always better the next day.





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