Bolognese Style Meat Sauce

My husband is a pretty good cook, and Spaghetti Bolognese has always been one of his specialties.  However, when I came across this recipe I thought it might come a little closer to the fantastic Bolognese sauce we had in a restaurant recently. The differences between the two recipes are minor (the biggest being the addition of milk), but the differences in taste and consistency are huge. Both of us were astounded at how rich and hearty this sauce tasted, and after licking our bowls clean (photos NOT shown), we both decided that we will be making Bolognese sauce this way from now on.

Bolognese Style Meat Sauce
Recipe was adapted from another blog I follow, where it was adapted from the Classic Italian Cookbook by Marcella Hazan

1-2 T  olive oil
1-2 T butter
2 T chopped yellow onion (½ of a small onion)
2 T chopped celery (1 long rib)
2 T chopped carrot (2 small carrots)
1 lb ground lean beef
1 t salt
1 C dry white wine
½ C whole milk (make sure to use whole milk, not skim or even 2%)
1/8 t grated nutmeg
2 C (28 oz) canned whole tomatoes (try to get San Marzano tomatoes, as they have the best flavor), chopped or squeezed (canned diced tomatoes can be used, too)
1-2 T tomato paste (optional)
1-2 T red wine vinegar (optional)

In a Dutch oven or large heavy pot, add the onion with the oil and butter and sauté briefly over medium heat until translucent. Add the celery and carrot and cook for 2 minutes. Add the ground beef, crumbling it in the pot with a fork. Add 1 teaspoon salt, stir, and cook only until the meat has lost its red, raw color. Add the wine, turn the heat up to medium high, and cook, stirring occasionally, until all the wine has evaporated, 10 minutes or so.

Turn the heat down to medium, add the milk and the nutmeg, and cook until the milk has evaporated. Stir frequently. When the milk has evaporated, add the tomatoes and stir thoroughly. When the tomatoes have started to bubble, turn the heat down until the sauce cooks at the laziest simmer, just an occasional bubble. Add tomato paste and/or vinegar to taste. Cook, uncovered, for a minimum of 3½ to 4 hours, stirring occasionally. Serve over spaghetti or fresh tagliatelle.



Step by step details

In a Dutch oven or large heavy pot, melt the butter with the oil.

Note: The original recipe called for 3 tablespoons of each, but I found that it made the sauce extremely oily, so I cut it back to 1 or 2 tablespoons of each. There should be just enough, once melted, to cover the bottom of the pan.


Dice the onion, celery, and carrot to get roughly two tablespoons of each. If you want, you can chop the celery and carrot a little coarser.


Add the onion to the melted oil and butter and sauté briefly over medium heat until translucent.


Add the celery and carrot, cook for 2 minutes, then add the ground beef.


Break apart the ground beef with a spatula or fork. I love this utensil I got for just this purpose. Since I can’t remember what it’s called, I just call it the beef breaker-upper thingy. I know, I have a way with words.


Add 1 teaspoon salt, stir, and cook only until the meat has lost its red, raw color. Then add the wine.


Turn the heat up to medium high and cook, stirring occasionally, until all the wine has evaporated. This might take 10 minutes or so. While you wait, you can measure out the milk and nutmeg. I add the nutmeg to the milk and then pour it all in together. I don’t really know why I do it this way. Maybe it just makes for a nicer photo.


A note on the nutmeg: I strongly recommend buying whole nutmeg and grating it fresh with a microplane grater, as it will have so much more flavor. This package that I got from my favorite spice shop has lasted me a couple years already, and the fragrant aroma of the freshly grated nutmeg is absolutely wonderful.


Now, let’s get back to our Bolognese sauce. Once the wine has evaporated, turn the heat down to medium and add the milk and the nutmeg.


Cook, stirring frequently, until the milk has evaporated. At that point, add the tomatoes. If using canned diced tomatoes, just dump them in along with the juice. If using canned whole tomatoes, you can either chop them first or just squeeze them – gently! – with your hands. They will splatter, so don’t be too aggressive or you’ll have tomato splotches all over your stove and clothing.


Stir thoroughly. When the mixture starts to bubble, turn the heat down until the sauce cooks at the lowest simmer, just an occasional bubble. Cook, uncovered, for 3½ to 4 hours, stirring occasionally. After a couple hours, taste it, and add tomato paste and/or a little red wine vinegar if you want a little more acidity. The sauce will thicken and reduce in volume as the liquids evaporate out. It will also reduce in volume the more you keep tasting it. I know this from experience. It’s just sooooo good!


This sauce is going to be great over any kind of pasta, but traditionally it’s used with fresh tagliatelle (homemade, if you’re feeling ambitious).


If you’re not prepared to make or buy fresh pasta, just use it on the spaghetti you already have in the pantry. It’s still going to be great!

Serve with grated parmesan cheese, crusty garlic bread, and your favorite red wine. Enjoy!

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