There’s not a single person in Australia, young or old, who doesn’t love a good Bolognese sauce, and there are many who claim their recipe is the best. Recently we travelled to Bologna, in northern Italy, in search of the original version and have tracked down an authentic recipe which we know you’ll fall in love with all over again.
So what are the key elements which make this dish authentic?
Matching pasta to the sauce comes second only to religion (and maybe football) in terms of Italian obsessions. Classically, tagliatelle all’ uovo (long flat pasta, 0.5cm wide, made with egg) is served with this sauce, but you could also use pappardelle, rigatoni or penne. We love Barilla pasta, as it’s an authentic Italian brand. Most importantly, this sauce should not be served with spaghetti as this shape cannot properly cling onto the sauce (leaving you with a big pile of meat in the bottom of your bowl and a flavourless pile of pasta on the top). We’ve decided to re-name this dish “tag-bol”! When cooking your pasta, make sure you use a big pot of generously salted water and boil vigorously for 2 minutes less than the packet instructions; continue the final 2 minutes of cooking in the sauce to ensure the flavour sinks into the pasta.
The original sauce is technically called ragú which basically means it’s a slow cooked meat sauce, and by slow we mean at least 3 hours. It is made with pork, veal, and pancetta (instead of beef), which is coarse ground (or even better, hand chopped!) to give a better texture. You can ask your butcher to mince it for you (coarse grind, once only), but we prefer to make it fresh at home with our fab new Kitchen Aid mincing attachment. The pork and veal should not be too lean, and come from high flavour braising cuts with large amounts of connective tissue; the collagen will break down and release natural gelatine which enriches the sauce. Because of this connective tissue, you should freeze the cubes of meat before mincing to ensure the sinews don’t get stuck on the machine. The sauce also contains no garlic and just a hint of tomato flavour. Being a northern Italian dish, we season with the region’s favourite spice, nutmeg, and there’s a bit of dairy involved – add a little butter when frying, and a generous amount of milk to the braise which helps to tenderise the meat and ensure a creamy consistency in the final sauce.
Finally, to finish the dish you must use good quality parmigiano reggiano, which comes from the neighbouring city of Parma, just an hours drive west of Bologna.
As this is such a slow cooked dish, it is perfect for busy mums who can pop it in a slow cooker, casserole or heavy cast iron pot in the morning and let it bubble away and fill the house with amazing aromas. It also freezes very well for up to 2 months, so we have made this recipe to serve 16, giving you 4 family meals out of just 1 pot.
- 1 Tbsp butter
- 1 Tbsp Bertolli extra virgin olive oil
- 300g pancetta, finely chopped
- 160g (1 large) carrot, finely chopped
- 160g (1.5 medium) onion, finely chopped
- 160g (2 sticks) celery, finely chopped
- 950g coarse ground veal (shoulder or shank)
- 650g coarse ground pork (shoulder, neck or shank)
- 450ml dry red or white wine
- 700ml tomato passata
- 400ml salt reduced chicken stock
- 500ml milk
- 5 fresh bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon of freshly ground nutmeg
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 100g Barilla tagliatelle all uovo, per person
- Parmigiano reggiano, to serve
Place butter, olive oil and pancetta in a large pot on a low heat. Cook slowly, stirring until the fat has rendered from the pancetta and it has become crispy (about 10 minutes). Add the finely chopped carrot, celery, onion and some seasoning and continue to cook until the onions are translucent (about 10 minutes).
Turn up the heat to very high and add the pork and veal, cook until well cooked, without stirring too much to avoid the meat stewing. Add the wine and deglaze the bottom of the pot by scraping up the caramelised bits with a wooden spoon. Once the alcohol has evaporated, turn down the heat to low and add passata, salt reduced chicken stock, milk, bay leaves and nutmeg.
Continue to cook on a very low heat (150C for a casserole in the oven, or the lowest setting on your slow cooker) covered for 2 hours, then remove cover and cook for a further 2 hours stirring from time to time. If it dries out a little, add some extra chicken stock. Serve right away, or cool, portion and place in sealed containers in the freezer for up to 2 months.
Bring a large pot of generously salted water to the boil. Place desired amount of pasta in the water and stir. Boil for 2 minutes less than the instructions on the packet suggests. Drain and reserve some cooking liquid. Meanwhile, heat desired amount of sauce in a large pan. Add pasta, and cook for a further 2 minutes, stirring until pasta is al dente. If it looks a little dry, add a little more pasta water. Serve immediately with freshly grated parmigiano reggiano.
A huge thank you to Carly from Barilla for her authentic Italian Tagliatelle all’ uovo, Rigatoni, Penne and Pappardelle. Our muscles would like to say thank you to Lisa from Filtered Media for the Kitchen Aid Mincing attachment, so much better than doing it by hand! And of course to Paulie from Bertolli for keeping our skin glowing with his lovely extra virgin olive oil.