The very unique Bolognese Ragù is a really famous meat sauce, typical of the Emilia Romagna Region in Italy.
It is worldwide well-known as a condiment for the pasta or the polenta, and there are so many diverse recipes.
The origins of the Bolognese Ragù
The origins of the Bolognese Ragù are unclear.
Some people say the Ancient Romans invented it: they used to prepare a stew similar to the ragù as we know it. The French Gauls then, during the barbarian invasions, copied this stew recipe to use it as a topping for croutons.
Later, in France, Louis XIV’s personal chef, originally from Bologna, ground the stew to use it as a pasta condiment. There is a strong influence from France in the recipe. Indeed, the name “ragù” comes from the French word “ragôuter” that means “whet your appetite”.
Furthermore, the story tells also that another Italian chef, Aberto Alvisi, who during the eighteenth century was working for bishops and cardinals. For the first time, Alvisi cooked a meat sauce really similar to the Bolognese ragù we prepare today.
Starting from the beginning of the nineteenth century, the Bolognese ragù appears also in the cook books from Emilia Romagna.
Indeed, it was October 17th 1982, when the Italian Kitchen Academy in Bologna registered the most famous meat sauce in order to preserve it for the posterity.
Therefore, for almost 200 years before the codification, Italian families prepared various recipes of the Bolognese ragù. That is the reason why today you can taste different versions of the most acclaimed pasta condiment!
- 3/4 lbs ground beef (80%20%)
- 1/3 lbs pancetta (look for cured pork belly or the real Italian pancetta: even though the bacon is similar, it does have a smoky taste that pancetta doesn't have)
- 1 yellow carrot
- 1 stick celery
- 1/2 onion
- 3/4 lbs strained tomatoes sauce
- 1/2 glass dry white wine
- 1/2 glass whole milk
- beef broth to taste
- EVO or butter, salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 glass heavy cream (optional)
Finely mince all the vegetables.
In a saucepan, heat the chopped pancetta, 3 Tbsp of EVO or 4 Tbsp of butter, over low to medium heat. Add the vegetables and cook, stirring often; adjust to low heat as needed, and continue to sauté until golden brown and softened.
Add the meat and increase the heat while stirring. Let the meat flavor until it starts sticking to the pan.
Add the wine and stir until it evaporates.
Add the tomatoes sauce, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir to combine and reduce heat to low; cook for 2 hours and half. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally. Add some broth at the time, only if the meat sauce sticks to the pan.
Almost at the end, add the milk so it sweetens the sourness from the tomatoes.
When the Bolognese ragù is ready, the tradition suggests to add heavy cream if you use dry pasta; otherwise, with fresh pasta, just add the sauce as it is.
The originally codified recipe does not require any herb. Anyway, we love adding just a hint of rosemary at the point 3), right before the meat starts sticking to the pan.
One Bolognese Ragù, many different recipes
One Bolognese Ragù, but many different recipes.
You can enjoy so many diverse techniques to prepare this sauce, even though there are always specific common traits. The main ingredients are the same: the meat plays the prominent role as well as the slow and prolonged cooking method.
Back in time, in Emilia Romagna, they used to cook meat from old cows. This is why it took 5-6 hours of cooking. They used to add milk or heavy cream to break the meat fibers and get a slightly sweet flavor.
Of course, nowadays we can use better meat to reduce the cooking time.
Moreover, in the old times people used to cook the “soffritto” (sautéed vegetables) with bacon, while now we use butter or extra-virgin olive oil.
The original Bolognese ragù recipe does not require any aromatic herb: no bay leaves, no Italian parsley, no rosemary, no garlic or chili peppers. Not even the nutmeg appears in the traditional recipe, even though many families use it.
Our recipe loyally reflects the one originally codified, even though we love adding just a hint of rosemary.
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