I’ve been on the hunt for the perfect bolognese sauce recipe. Bolognese is basically the classic italian meat sauce often called “SpagBol”. It’s homey and filling. I had a very busy Q1 2014 but I decided one night last week to cook dinner for a change and focused on googling for a bolognese recipe.
Research has led me to so many recipes for this classic Italian sauce, I can’t seem to find a truly authentic one as I came across different variations but one over-arching ingredient shocked me! It was the addition of MILK – a meat sauce? with milk? you’re kidding me right?
Bologna is a town in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy best known for the multitude of agricultural bounty seen in their dishes rich with eggs, milk, cheese, butter, meat and soft wheat. Naturally, a sauce named for the region’s capital could not go without dairy. Also, further research led me to realize that milk helps cut down the acidity of the ground meat, making the ragu rich and creamy while the meat sublimely tender. and ORANGE!
I know, orange. Yes, you read that right. Classic Bolognese is more orange red than blood red emphasizing on the meat rather than the tomatoes and the sienna color comes from the milk. A-HA!
So why would I even post about this? I uploaded a photo of my spagbol on Instagram and everybody loved it and so many people asked for the recipe. So to make it easier, I decided to blog about it. LOL!
Anyway, after much googling, I picked to adapt Mario Batali’s recipe and tweaked it for what’s available here in Manila and my own personal preference. BTW, Batali is my favorite celebrity chef and he so happens to have trained in italian cuisine in a small town within the Emilia-Romagna region so I had a feeling he knows his stuff.
For me, cooking is an art so I don’t believe in perfect measurements. What I will show you is a photo stream of the steps I’ve done with a sort of measurement of the ingredients to go along with it. Hope that works!
Prepared first the “soffritto” – very similar to the French’s mirepoix which is the base of all hearty soups and sauces. It’s basically celery(1 large stalk), carrots(half a large carrot), onions(one medium-sized red) and garlic(6 cloves – I KNOW! I love garlic).
I added a variation of chopped chorizo de bilbao(1 sausage) and bacon(4 strips), fried them until brown and used the rendered fat to fry the soffritto for extra flavor.
In medium high heat, saute the Soffritto until transluscent. That’ll probably take around 10 minutes. Make sure it doesn’t turn brown.
Add the ground meat. In Batali’s recipe, he called for ground veal which is hard to come by here in Manila so I did a 1:1 ratio of lean ground beef and a somewhat fatty ground pork. At this stage, add back the fried chorizo and bacon from earlier and cook in high heat.
Building a good ragu requires layers of flavor. Also, remember to brown the meat mixture and stir to avoid burning bits of meat.
As soon as the meat is browned, pour in the tomato paste(half a tube/can), chopped canned tomatoes(I like the brand Capri – I used half a can), milk(3/4 cup – use whole milk) and white wine(1/2 cup – I used a sauvignon blanc). I also added some parmesan chips to add flavor. Heat should be brought down to the lowest possible temperature. Any cook will tell you, a good ragu requires at least 1.5 hours of a very slow simmer.
This was at the 2-hour mark. I had adjusted a few times the seasoning according to my taste. I like it not too salty and I also like a good grind of black pepper. I also added maybe a teaspoon of dry basil and a teaspoon of dry oregano. If you have fresh, the better. For this batch, I cooked the sauce for 2.5 hours.
Note that a good sauce needs a finely cooked pasta as well. I’m still not Martha Stewart levels of making my own fresh batch of pasta but remember that the sauce waits for the pasta and not the other way around. So cook your pasta at the very last moment – make the water as salty as the sea and NO OIL in the water, PLEASE. Follow the box instructions on the cooking time. When cooked, I drain almost but not all the pasta water. I mix a pat of butter and a few teaspoons of parmesan to the pasta before I pour in the sauce. Here is the finished product!
/pats self on the back.