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eG Cook-Off 57: Bolognese Sauce

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#61 slkinsey

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Posted 10 November 2011 - 10:22 AM

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

Sounds nice. But that's not in the Bolognese ballpark. What you have there is a tomato sauce with a bit of ground meat in it. Ragu Bolognese is a meat sauce with a touch of tomato in it (or none at all).
Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

#62 Alcuin

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Posted 10 November 2011 - 12:14 PM

I've never done a cook-off here before, but yesterday it was cold and snowy and I needed something long cooked and rich. So I made some Bolognese sauce and used it in a baked dish I found in Marcella Hazan's _Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking_.

Here are the ingredients for the sauce:

bol ingredients.jpg

I used half the onion, and chopped it as finely as I could along with the stalk of celery and the carrot. I sweated the onion, then added the celery and carrot and cooked them together. Then I added the beef, 1 full pound of it (maybe a bit too much, but I wanted the dish to be ribsticking), and broke it up finely with a fork. Then I added a cup of milk and some nutmeg and cooked it down, then a cup of red wine and cooked that down, then I added a cup of crushed tomatoes. I then let it cook for about 3 1/4 hours and make sure the seasoning is right. This is essentially Hazan's procedure with a little more beef than she uses and a little less tomato. I like to use white wine, because its got more acidity to contrast to the richness of the beef and milk, but I had some leftover red so that's what went in. The acidity of the tomatoes was enough anyway. Here's the result:

bol.jpg

You can see that there's quite a bit of fat in this sauce. That's what clings to the pasta, and I think the fat is essential to the sauce. You can see too that it is purely a meat sauce: if you didn't know there were tomatoes in it, you might not be able to tell. The tomatoes and wine are there to balance the milk and the beef. It's an intensely beefy, very rich tasting sauce: meager ingredients elevated to the point of luxury.

I used the sauce, along with two cups of loose besciamella, grated Grana Padano, and a pound of rigatoni. In Hazan's recipe, she mixes the Bolognese and the besciamella, but I like to keep them separate somewhat. They blend together during baking, but not too much so there are pockets of pasta dressed with one sauce or the other, or both together.

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After baking for about 15 minutes at 400F, here was the result:

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It is not at all diet food, but it is rich, hot, and delicious for a cold night.
nunc est bibendum...

#63 kayb

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Posted 10 November 2011 - 12:33 PM

I'm picking up an order of ground goat meat from the co-op tomorrow afternoon. Would goat be acceptable in Bolognese? If not, what should I use the goat for? Ordered it on a whim -- the only goat I've ever eaten was barbecued whole goat. I have some grass-fed ground beef I could put with it, and some good country slab bacon OR country sausage, or both.
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#64 David Ross

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Posted 10 November 2011 - 12:34 PM

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.

Not really a traditional Bolognese, but I'm curious about the Marsala. Sounds too sweet to me for a beef sauce. Do you like the flavor of the Marsala as opposed to a dry white or red wine?

#65 Franci

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Posted 10 November 2011 - 04:14 PM

I'm a southern italian and in the south I don't think that most of Italians are aware that there is milk in the classic ragu' alla bolognese.
I've adopted recipe from the "Simili" sisters (watch for sorelle simili on youtube to see them in action) sfogline and bolognesi.

First of all I use a very large saute' pan for starting the sauce, in order to sweat all the ingredients properly.

I prep a good quantity of onions, carrots and celery. For about 800 g of meat I use 2 medium onions, some amount of carrots and half of the celery (although they use for 500 g meat only two tablespons of each vegetable).
I start sweating the onion with evoo and a knot of butter, as soon as it soften, I add the celery, and after a couple minutes the carrots. I like to add a little bit of minced pancetta. Here, it really makes a difference to use some chicken liver in the ragu', it gets very creamy. Clean a couple livers from tough parts and chop with a chef knife. Since the liver has the tendency to tie up to other ingredients, push the vegetables on the side and add the liver in the center of the pan. As soon as it changes color, make sure to break it with the wooden spoon, mix with the other ingredients.
Again I push the vegetables on the sides and start browning the meat in the center. I keep my heat on high, make sure I have enough fat to brown the meat. I like a mix of pork and ground beef. If the pan is large enough the meat will not release its own juice. As soon as I see it starts browning I break with the spoon any lumps and mix it with the other ingredients. I usually start with half of the meat, brown or better starts to brown, mix with the vegetagles, put at at sides and keep going with the rest of it.
At this poing I add a little bit of tomato paste, like a couple tablespoons and brown. Then I deglaze with red wine (warm), making sure to scrape all the "sucs" from the bottom of the pan. Yes, I like red wine. I would add something like 400 ml of hot whole milk, a little at a time, more or less dipends if I feel I need more. When it looks nice and creamy, I pour the sauce in a taller pot, I add a can of peeled tomatoes (whick I usually crush by hand), if I feel I need the sauce to be a little more runny I add some hot water. I add some coarse salt and a bay leaf. I bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for 2 to 3 hours.
I made it also less red, just with concentrato,.

#66 David Ross

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Posted 10 November 2011 - 06:52 PM

As heidih mentioned, I drew my recipe from the classic Time-Life "Foods of the World" series. Authored by Mr. Waverly Root, (who "first encountered Italian Cooking in Rome in 1929"), "The Cooking of Italy" was released in 1968. The "consultant" on the book was Luigi Carnacina, the "Dean of Italian Gastronomy," at the time.

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This is the recipe for Ragu Bolognese, "North Italian Meat Sauce" from the book, with my changes noted in italics.

1/4 pound smoked ham, coarsely chopped, (I used pancetta cut into small dice of about 1/8")
1 cup coarsely chopped onion, (I diced the onion about 1/4", as I wanted a fine texture/mouthfeel in the finished sauce)
1/4 cup coarsely chopped carrot, (I diced the carrot about 1/4" and used about 1 cup)
1/2 cup chopped celery, (Again, I diced the celery about 1/4" and used 1 cup)
4 tbsp. butter (2 Tbsp. for the vegetables and 2 Tbsp. for the chicken livers)
(I added about 3 cloves of fresh garlic, minced)

2 Tbsp. olive oil
3/4lb. round steak, ground twice, (I used about 12oz. ground beef chuck)
1/4lb. lean pork, ground twice, (I used about 1/4lb. ground pork)
1/2 cup white wine
2 cups beef stock (I used about 1 1/2 cups)
2 tbsp. tomato paste (I used about 3 tbsp.)
1/2 pound chicken livers (I used 3 livers, sauteed in butter then chopped fine and added to the meat mixture)
1 cup heavy cream (omitted the cream)
Pinch of ground nutmeg
Salt and Pepper
(I added about 2 tsp. each of dried basil and oregano)
(I stirred in about 2 tbsp. of Wondra flour to thicken the sauce)


#67 patrickamory

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Posted 10 November 2011 - 08:00 PM

Waverley Root! I've just been reading all about him in A.J. Liebling's "Between Meals."

Not to thread hijack, I've been following this avidly. We make a bolognese that pretty much starts from Marcella Hazan and doesn't go MUCH further... we've experimented with cream and gone back to milk, we've experimented with 4-hour cooking times and gone back to 2 hours. And we've alternated between adding pancetta, ground pork and ground veal.

Very interested in trying some of the ideas from this thread - especially the umami ones - while staying as close as possible to the Hazan ideal which has delivered us so much eating pleasure.

#68 janeer

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Posted 10 November 2011 - 08:09 PM

1 cup heavy cream (omitted the cream)
Pinch of ground nutmeg
Salt and Pepper
(I added about 2 tsp. each of dried basil and oregano)
(I stirred in about 2 tbsp. of Wondra flour to thicken the sauce)

I was OK with this, sort of, until I read that you omitted cream (dairy), added basil and oregano, and added Wondra. We're not in Bologna land anymore.

#69 Shalmanese

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Posted 11 November 2011 - 03:37 AM

Has anyone tried the "official" Accademia Italiana della Cucina codified version of bolognese?

Ingredients

300 gr. beef cartella (thin skirt)
150 gr. pancetta, dried
50 gr. carrot
50 gr. celery stalk
50 gr. onion
5 spoons tomato sauce or 20 gr. triple tomato extract
1 cup whole milk
Half cup white or red wine, dry and not frizzante
Salt and pepper, to taste.

Procedure

The pancetta, cut into little cubes and chopped with a mezzaluna chopping knife, is melted in a saucepan; the vegetables, once again well chopped with the mezzaluna, are then added and everything is left to stew softly. Next the ground beef is added and is left on the stovetop, while being stirred constantly, until it sputters. The wine and the tomato cut with a little broth are added and everything left to simmer for around two hours, adding little by little the milk and adjusting the salt and black pepper. Optional but advisable is the addition of the panna di cottura of a litre of whole milk at the end of the cooking.
PS: I am a guy.

#70 David Ross

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Posted 11 November 2011 - 07:28 AM



1 cup heavy cream (omitted the cream)
Pinch of ground nutmeg
Salt and Pepper
(I added about 2 tsp. each of dried basil and oregano)
(I stirred in about 2 tbsp. of Wondra flour to thicken the sauce)

I was OK with this, sort of, until I read that you omitted cream (dairy), added basil and oregano, and added Wondra. We're not in Bologna land anymore.

I cooked the Bolognese over a low heat for about 4 hours so maybe if I gave it two more hours it would have thickened without the Wondra. However, the Wondra didn't add any pasty, flour taste and did help the thickening process. Without the basil and oregano it would have been pretty bland for my taste. So I recognize based on the classic that you found I stretched the boundaries, but the finished sauce was delicious. I'll try it with cream and see what I think is the taste difference in the version I prepared.

#71 Paul Bacino

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Posted 11 November 2011 - 08:34 AM

So ..I pulled out my Waverley Root " The Food of Italy " Just to see what he had to say in this edition : he initially states " Bolognese ragu, an unctuous blend of onions, carrots, finely chopped pork and veal, butter and tomato. " but later states. " Often ragu is richer than the basic recipe given above ".

Just thought I would add this to the party!!

I'm out looking for my stuff today!!
Its good to have Morels

#72 Zachary

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Posted 11 November 2011 - 08:43 AM

I'm a little late to the party, but I love Bolognese, especially in Lasagna. My version is in two parts, and is a heavily modified version of an old Saveur recipe. It's not 100% authentic, but I like it a lot - it's just going to take a couple of days.

Day 1: Braising short ribs

3 lbs. beef short ribs, cut English style
1 lb. beef shank, cut into about 1" slices
1 small onion, large dice
1 carrot, large dice
1 rib celery, large dice
2 bay leaves
1 750 ml bottle of inexpensive red wine (I typically use Montepulciano d'Abruzzo)
Salt and pepper

Salt and pepper meat. In a large Dutch oven, brown each piece on all sides over medium heat - it may take a bit of oil to get started, and will take multiple batches. Once the meat is brown, check to see if there's enough oil in the pan. If not, add a bit. Brown the vegetables, add the meat (and collected juices) back, add bay leaves and wine. Cover the Dutch oven and simmer slowly for two to three hours, until the meat shreds like brisket - you're looking for collagen conversion here. Once this has happened, strain the solids from the liquids. Reserve the liquid into a pitcher, cover it with plastic wrap, and put it in the fridge when cool. Discard the vegetables and bay leaves. Shred the meat while still warm into medium-sized pieces (you want some texture here... don't worry about getting it too fine). Reserve the meat, cover and put in the fridge.

Day 2: Bolognese

Reserved braising liquid, hopefully with a nice cap of fat on top
Reserved shredded braised meat

2 x 28 oz cans whole, peeled tomatoes
1/2 c. fat (this should be a mixture of reserved braising fat and pork fat rendered from fatty pork pieces)
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2 ribs celery, fine dice
1 medium onion, fine dice
2 carrots, fine dice
1 fennel bulb, fine dice
1 1/2 lb. ground chuck
1 lb ground pork shoulder - it would be best if your butcher ground these for you on a coarse plate
8 oz. pancetta, finely chopped
1 c. red wine, reserved from the braise
4 Tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup whole milk
Salt and pepper

Pull the fat off the top of the braising liquid. Melt this, and add enough pork fat to reach 1/2 cup. Reduce braising liquid to 1 cup over medium low heat and reserve. Puree tomatoes and their juice and reserve.

In a large Dutch oven (like the one from yesterday), melt reserved fat and butter, until the foam from the butter subsides. Add all the vegetables, season with salt and pepper, and turn the heat down to medium low. Slowly cook the vegetables, stirring often, until they're soft and lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Reduce heat to low, and fully caramelize the vegetables, which should take another 20 minutes. This step cannot be rushed - it's going to take 35-40 minutes of attention to make sure the vegetables have evenly and thoroughly browned. Add the tomato paste, and cook until the paste turns brick red, stirring often, about 5 minutes.

Add the chuck and pork shoulder to the pan and return the heat to medium. Stir the meat, breaking it up, until it browns, about 10 minutes. Add the pancetta, and cook until the pancetta renders most of its fat, about 5 mninutes. Add the reserved braising liquid and reserved braised meat to the pan, and cook until the braising liquid has almost evaporated (this is what makes the ragu thick without the addition of flour). Add the milk, and stir until it is absorbed.

Add the pureed tomatoes, reduce the heat to low, and simmer, uncovered for about 2-3 hours, until the ragu is very thick. The telltale sign the ragu is ready is that the color is muted, and bubbles that pop at the surface of the ragu leave a mark for a few seconds. There should be no obvious liquid left - the ragu should be a cohesive mass.

From here, I usually make Lasagna with homemade pasta and a bechamel. Oh, and as for a wine pairing? Dolcetto. The best bottle of Dolcetto you can find. I've got a couple of bottles of 09 Marcarini Dolcetto waiting for when it's cold enough to do this, but I'd imagine that if you have some 06 Marcarini "Boschi di Berri" lying around, you should by all means feel free to open one up for this.

Thanks,

Zachary

#73 David Ross

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Posted 11 November 2011 - 09:09 AM

So ..I pulled out my Waverley Root " The Food of Italy " Just to see what he had to say in this edition : he initially states " Bolognese ragu, an unctuous blend of onions, carrots, finely chopped pork and veal, butter and tomato. " but later states. " Often ragu is richer than the basic recipe given above ".

Just thought I would add this to the party!!

I'm out looking for my stuff today!!

And one could interpret Mr. Root's comments to mean that "richer ragu" employs the use of milk or cream. No?

#74 Paul Bacino

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Posted 11 November 2011 - 09:49 AM

Yeah Dave,

Milk/Cream/Parmesan Cheese/Stock or what ever might be close at hand !!

Cheers Paul

btw, Its a good book if you don't have it.

Edited by Paul Bacino, 11 November 2011 - 09:58 AM.

Its good to have Morels

#75 slkinsey

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Posted 11 November 2011 - 09:52 AM

(I added about 2 tsp. each of dried basil and oregano)

Without the basil and oregano it would have been pretty bland for my taste.

I don't mean to single out David, of course. He is by no means alone in these feelings and practices. It's just convenient to quote his remarks because they are emblematic of something I find fairly typical among those who are used to eating Italian-American food, and who perhaps as a result have certain notions about what "Italian pasta sauce" is supposed to taste like -- which is to say: tomato-based and highly spiced for the most part (unless it completely breaks away into something like carbonara or pesto). A preference for dry herb flavor has especially become a common expectation because using lots of dried herbs has become a way for restaurants and manufacturers of jarred sauces to obscure the lower quality of their base products. And, of course, when one becomes habituated to a certain flavor profile in a certain dish, any retreat from that can seem bland (for example, Calabrians, who have an especially spicy cuisine, are known to bring little containers of dried pepper with them because non-spicy food seems bland). The result has been that many people have come to expect and desire certain flavors in an "Italian pasta sauce" that are not really the point of ragu Bolognese.

This is a reason, I think, why so many are tempted to add herbs and extra tomatoes to dishes like ragu Bolognese which would otherwise seem bland to them. It's because the rich meatiness of ragu Bolognese doesn't taste like what they have come to expect out of an Italian pasta sauce. It's not dissimilar from those for whom "pizza sauce" is a highly flavored, dry-herbed cooked tomato sauce, and who find the Neapolitan base of crushed tomatoes and sea salt bland and uninteresting. This is especially interesting to me because the same people don't generally find, say, beef Stroganoff over egg noodles to be bland and in need of punching up with herbs and extra garlic. Most likely, I think, it's because we have the conception of beef Stroganoff as being rich and meaty and not highly spiced. I would argue, by the way, that tagliatelle al ragu Bolognese has more in common with beef Stroganoff on egg noodles than it does with strongly flavored tomato-based Italian pasta dishes like bucatini all'amatriciana and spaghetti alla putanesca and Italian-American red sauce. So, for me personally anyway, when we start thinking of tagliatelle al ragu Bolognese under a separate paradigm than the one we use to think about these highly spiced/flavored tomato-based pasta dishes, suddenly it doesn't seem like it needs extra tomato, spices, garlic, whatever.

Edited by slkinsey, 11 November 2011 - 09:53 AM.

Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

#76 mgaretz

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Posted 11 November 2011 - 10:58 AM

Not really a traditional Bolognese, but I'm curious about the Marsala. Sounds too sweet to me for a beef sauce. Do you like the flavor of the Marsala as opposed to a dry white or red wine?


The marsala doesn't add that much sweetness, probably the extra added sugar does that! But I like sweet meat sauces! (I use marsala, cream sherry or port in a lot of my dishes.) There's also a ton of tomato paste in my recipe, so the sweetness is used to balance the tomato tartness.

#77 David Ross

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Posted 11 November 2011 - 12:49 PM

(I added about 2 tsp. each of dried basil and oregano)

Without the basil and oregano it would have been pretty bland for my taste.

I don't mean to single out David, of course. He is by no means alone in these feelings and practices. It's just convenient to quote his remarks because they are emblematic of something I find fairly typical among those who are used to eating Italian-American food, and who perhaps as a result have certain notions about what "Italian pasta sauce" is supposed to taste like -- which is to say: tomato-based and highly spiced for the most part (unless it completely breaks away into something like carbonara or pesto). A preference for dry herb flavor has especially become a common expectation because using lots of dried herbs has become a way for restaurants and manufacturers of jarred sauces to obscure the lower quality of their base products. And, of course, when one becomes habituated to a certain flavor profile in a certain dish, any retreat from that can seem bland (for example, Calabrians, who have an especially spicy cuisine, are known to bring little containers of dried pepper with them because non-spicy food seems bland). The result has been that many people have come to expect and desire certain flavors in an "Italian pasta sauce" that are not really the point of ragu Bolognese.

This is a reason, I think, why so many are tempted to add herbs and extra tomatoes to dishes like ragu Bolognese which would otherwise seem bland to them. It's because the rich meatiness of ragu Bolognese doesn't taste like what they have come to expect out of an Italian pasta sauce. It's not dissimilar from those for whom "pizza sauce" is a highly flavored, dry-herbed cooked tomato sauce, and who find the Neapolitan base of crushed tomatoes and sea salt bland and uninteresting. This is especially interesting to me because the same people don't generally find, say, beef Stroganoff over egg noodles to be bland and in need of punching up with herbs and extra garlic. Most likely, I think, it's because we have the conception of beef Stroganoff as being rich and meaty and not highly spiced. I would argue, by the way, that tagliatelle al ragu Bolognese has more in common with beef Stroganoff on egg noodles than it does with strongly flavored tomato-based Italian pasta dishes like bucatini all'amatriciana and spaghetti alla putanesca and Italian-American red sauce. So, for me personally anyway, when we start thinking of tagliatelle al ragu Bolognese under a separate paradigm than the one we use to think about these highly spiced/flavored tomato-based pasta dishes, suddenly it doesn't seem like it needs extra tomato, spices, garlic, whatever.

I don't mind a bit if we use my experiences with Bolognese to bring up arguments and discussion. In fact, I would expect just that. I think you might be right about the issue of my flavor profiles for an Italian meat sauce. I couldn't get past the fact the recipe I used didn't have any garlic, and I seemingly was craving the oregano and basil flavors. I intentionally chose dried herbs, not because of convenience but because I think in certain cooked sauces dried herbs add more flavor than fresh herbs. I'll post some photos later today. And again, thanks for the comments. It's all part of the learning curve.

#78 David Ross

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Posted 11 November 2011 - 04:38 PM

I started my Bolognese with the "sofrito," a mixture of diced celery, onion, carrot, garlic and diced pancetta, all sauteed in butter-
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The vegetables cooked over medium heat until they were soft, about 25 minutes.

#79 David Ross

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Posted 11 November 2011 - 04:53 PM

The next building block of the Bolognese was the meat, a mixture of ground beef, pork and chicken livers. Now mind you, I wasn't going into the cooking with the intent to duplicate a tomato-based sauce with meat--the basic tomato/pasta sauce I typically make. I realized up front that Bolognese would be a different sauce than what I was accustomed to. The chicken livers were sauteed in butter then finely minced and stirred into the meats-
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Once the meats were cooked down, I added the sofrito to the stew pot-
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Next was the "liquid" element-white wine, beef stock and tomato paste-
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The Bolognese cooked over a medium-low heat on the stovetop, partially covered, for the next 2 1/2 hours.

#80 ChrisZ

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Posted 11 November 2011 - 05:38 PM


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).


Yes, that was the point of the series - take common and/or dubious dishes from the 70s and update them. If you have the books of the series you get several pages of notes on its history, diversity, and of course the clarification that the English 'spag bol' is not the same as ragu alla Bolognese. In the videos linked above they note that even in Italian towns 30 kilometres apart they have different ingredients in their ragu, and in the book they also mention that in Abruzzo they would use lamb and in Sardinia they'd use wild boar - and that of course this is no longer ragu alla Bolognese...

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).


This is potentially relevant to the way that the English/American tomato & herb dominant 'spag bol' evolved from the traditional 'ragu alla Bolognese'. Some food historians think that the differences between the traditional Italian ragu and the English forms of 'spag bol' simply stem from the fact that Italian migrants found meat much more affordable than it had been in Italy, so they added meat to the tomato based sauce they would have been more accustomed to, and simply called it Bolognese because it was a famous name. If they're right (and there's a ring of truth to the way it comes down to money) then the English 'spag bol' didn't actually evolve from ragu alla Bolognese, but rather it began as a tomato based sauce that had meat added to it.

One final note - I was watching an Italian cooking show and the chef was making a basic rabbit ragu, but at the end he caramelised some sugar in a frying pan and poured it into the sauce. I haven't seen caramel mentioned before so perhaps it can be added to the list of potential discussion points...

#81 David Ross

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Posted 11 November 2011 - 05:45 PM

One final note - I was watching an Italian cooking show and the chef was making a basic rabbit ragu, but at the end he caramelised some sugar in a frying pan and poured it into the sauce. I haven't seen caramel mentioned before so perhaps it can be added to the list of potential discussion points...


Do you recall what the Chef's reasoning was for adding the caramelized sugar? Of course it was to add some sweet element, but was it a case of the caramel in the sugar adding a "deep" caramel, (i.e. "burnt sugar), note? That leads me to wonder if you added caramelized onions to a Bolognese. It would add somewhat of a sweet/caramel note with the added flavor of onion.

#82 mgaretz

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Posted 11 November 2011 - 05:51 PM


One final note - I was watching an Italian cooking show and the chef was making a basic rabbit ragu, but at the end he caramelised some sugar in a frying pan and poured it into the sauce. I haven't seen caramel mentioned before so perhaps it can be added to the list of potential discussion points...


Do you recall what the Chef's reasoning was for adding the caramelized sugar? Of course it was to add some sweet element, but was it a case of the caramel in the sugar adding a "deep" caramel, (i.e. "burnt sugar), note? That leads me to wonder if you added caramelized onions to a Bolognese. It would add somewhat of a sweet/caramel note with the added flavor of onion.


Could also be for color as it would brown up the sauce.

#83 ChrisZ

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Posted 11 November 2011 - 06:31 PM

Sorry, no additional details and I don't understand Italian so I was just watching. It was a traditional ragu but had two interesting aspects (or three if you count the use of rabbit) - firstly he deglazed with brandy (and flamed it) not wine, and secondly the caramel. Apart from that it was a standard ragu, the caramel went in at the end. I'd be interested to know how much of the brandy flavour remained in the sauce, and whether it has a particular affinity with rabbit or whether it's just what was handy. I guess one day I'll try it and see if it's for colour, flavour, or both.

Someone mentioned goat - it's traditional in Italy to serve goat at particular religious periods of the year. I guess that if you use goat in a ragu it's no longer ragu alla Bolognese, even if everything else stays the same, but it's certainly delicious! I'd have to be honest and say that in a blind taste test I couldn't tell it from lamb, but I wouldn't be worried either way... Generally the meat from the ragu is served as its own course, and the sauce is served with pasta. This again is interesting to compare with the traditional ragu alla Bolognese, where the sauce is solely intended to be served with pasta. But other regional variations may follow the same basic technique to produce a meat dish, of which the sauce is served with pasta as something of a by-product.

#84 David Ross

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Posted 11 November 2011 - 06:41 PM

Sorry, no additional details and I don't understand Italian so I was just watching. It was a traditional ragu but had two interesting aspects (or three if you count the use of rabbit) - firstly he deglazed with brandy (and flamed it) not wine, and secondly the caramel. Apart from that it was a standard ragu, the caramel went in at the end. I'd be interested to know how much of the brandy flavour remained in the sauce, and whether it has a particular affinity with rabbit or whether it's just what was handy. I guess one day I'll try it and see if it's for colour, flavour, or both.

Someone mentioned goat - it's traditional in Italy to serve goat at particular religious periods of the year. I guess that if you use goat in a ragu it's no longer ragu alla Bolognese, even if everything else stays the same, but it's certainly delicious! I'd have to be honest and say that in a blind taste test I couldn't tell it from lamb, but I wouldn't be worried either way... Generally the meat from the ragu is served as its own course, and the sauce is served with pasta. This again is interesting to compare with the traditional ragu alla Bolognese, where the sauce is solely intended to be served with pasta. But other regional variations may follow the same basic technique to produce a meat dish, of which the sauce is served with pasta as something of a by-product.

That gives me more ideas--serving the meat as a separate course and the strained sauce with pasta for another course. One could even stretch the theme and do an appetizer with pancetta--sort of a Bolognese tasting menu.

#85 Margaret Pilgrim

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Posted 11 November 2011 - 07:07 PM

In our house, Bolognese Sauce does not require a shopping list. It happens when we have cold-closet and pantry ingredients on hand. More specifically when we have a large chunk of left over steak, roast beef, pork or lamb. Even roast chicken or other fowl. It is a process rather than a recipe. Ergo:

Roughly hand chop meat or meats, yes, we occasionally mix meats. Or process briefly. Chop or process carrots, celery and onions. Measure out a cup of white or, yes, sometimes red wine. Equal quantity of milk. Roughly chop either fresh tomatoes (when they are good) or canned (San Marzano type).

Glaze a heavy pan (aka all-clad) with olive oil. Slowly saute the vegetables but do not color. Add oil if dry. Add chopped meat and color but do not brown. Add wine and reduce to almost dry. Add milk, generous grinds of nutmeg and black pepper, teaspoon kosher salt. Reduce to almost dry. Add tomatoes and their juices. Stir well to combine. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and let simmer on low heat until thick and color mellows to an orange-brown. In a perfect world, let cool and hold in fridge for several days. It gets better with age. Or, freeze in convenient portions.

ETA: While I don't add either to ragu, I have no problem with the judicious addition of either good soy sauce or fish sauce to savory recipes. Very few tasters are able to identify the elusive if even discernible added dimension.

Edited by Margaret Pilgrim, 11 November 2011 - 07:12 PM.

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#86 Katie Meadow

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Posted 11 November 2011 - 07:44 PM

After reading this thread I am still confused about the definition of Ragu and the definition of Bolognese. I always thought a ragu was generally a tomato based meat sauce characterized by a soffrito and long cooking of the meat. Most any kind of meat was acceptable, including goat and rabbit or a mix of meats; you used what you had.

Ragu Bolognese was in my mind a regional ragu that differed by the use of less tomato product and the addition of milk. Very useful if fresh tomatoes are out of season and you don't have any canned tomatoes on hand. Should it be called Bolognese if it doesn't have milk in it? I suppose a case can be made that if you live in Bologna you can call it whatever you want. Straighten me out on this.

#87 Margaret Pilgrim

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Posted 11 November 2011 - 08:35 PM

After reading this thread I am still confused about the definition of Ragu and the definition of Bolognese. I always thought a ragu was generally a tomato based meat sauce characterized by a soffrito and long cooking of the meat. Most any kind of meat was acceptable, including goat and rabbit or a mix of meats; you used what you had.

Ragu Bolognese was in my mind a regional ragu that differed by the use of less tomato product and the addition of milk. Very useful if fresh tomatoes are out of season and you don't have any canned tomatoes on hand. Should it be called Bolognese if it doesn't have milk in it? I suppose a case can be made that if you live in Bologna you can call it whatever you want. Straighten me out on this.


I'm with you. Bolognese is a "meat" sauce rather than a "tomato" sauce; always contains milk, never herbs. Tomato intensity is cut by meat broth used to maintain liquidity during the long simmer.

Edited by Margaret Pilgrim, 11 November 2011 - 08:47 PM.

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#88 David Ross

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Posted 11 November 2011 - 08:39 PM

I'll be doing a side-by-side taste comparison tommorrow--the first sauce without dairy, the second, traditional version, with cream. Don't know what my taste buds will tell me but I have an inclination I'll prefer the sauce without cream. We'll see.

#89 Margaret Pilgrim

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Posted 11 November 2011 - 08:52 PM

I don't love the idea of "cream". Would you consider doing 3? Adding one with milk?
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#90 ChrisZ

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Posted 11 November 2011 - 08:54 PM

So I'm reading through Blumenthal's 'spag bol' recipe and it says to simmer uncovered, but to top up with water as required so everything is always under liquid. How would this differ from simmering with the lid either on, or partly on? If the aim to maintain the same amount of liquid, surely leaving the lid on would help retain flavours? Even partly on would allow a trickle of condensation back into the pot that presumably has more flavour than plain water?





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