Original Post Date: 8/21/2009
Never let it be said that I’m not a good cook — I am, I really am. I am, however, a slave to rule-following when it comes to reproducing recipes. This is both a blessing and a curse.
Where Columbus Foodie is flexible — sometimes to the point of making changes where they’re not needed, just for the sake of “creativity” — I’m the workmanlike technician, able to precisely duplicate a dish, given an accurate recipe.
This last Sunday night, I made a wonderful Ragu Alla Bolognese. I modified the original recipe somewhat to accommodate the ingredients I had available. I also doubled the recipe from the original requirements, which resulted in somewhat longer cooking times throughout. Your mileage will no doubt vary. I served this delicious ragu over Trader Giotto’s (Trader Joe’s) imported Italian tagliatelle. It was fantastic.
Ragu Alla Bolognese
Modified from the original recipe found in La Cucina Italiana, Sept/Oct 2009
1 (14-ounce) or 1/2 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes in juice, preferably San Marzano — I substituted Cento tomato puree
1-1/2 to 2-1/2 cups water
1 T tomato paste, preferably double concentrated
1 t beef base or 1 beef bouillon cube
1 celery rib roughly chopped
1/2 medium onion, roughly chopped
1/2 medium carrot, roughly chopped
3 T unsalted butter
2 oz sweet italian sausage, removed from casing
2 oz pancetta or slab bacon (I used double-smoked bacon), finely chopped
3/4 pound 80/20 ground beef (I used 1-1/4 pound ground beef)
3/4 pound ground pork (I used no ground pork)
1/2 pound ground veal (I used 3/4 pound ground veal)
Fine sea salt
1 cup dry red wine
1 bay leaf
3/4 cup whole milk
Freshly grated nutmeg
Puree tomatoes and their juice in blender until smooth; set aside (if using puree, ignore this step)
In a small saucepan, bring 1-1/2 cups water to a simmer; whisk in tomato paste and beef base/bouillon cube. Remove from heat; set aside.
Make a battuto (the foundation for many Italian soups, stews and sauces) by finely chopping together (by hand) celery, onion and carrot.
Heat butter over medium-low heat in a dutch oven until melted and foaming; add battuto, sausage, and pancetta or bacon. Cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until sausage is broken into small bits, then continue cooking, stirring frequently, until vegetables are softened (do not brown), about 25 minutes.
Add beef, (pork) and veal; increase heat to medium. Cook, stirring until meat is broken into small bits, then season lightly with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring constantly for 10 minutes more (do not brown).
Add wine; bring to a boil and cook until wine and juices in pot are mostly evaporated, 3 to 5 minutes. Add reserved pureed tomato, reserved beef base mixture and bay leaf.
Cook ragu at the barest simmer, stirring occasionally (making sure to stir into edges of pot), until meat is very tender and sauce is thick (as sauce thickens, add water, bit by bit, if necessary, to keep sauce moist and just barely liquid), about 2-1/2 hours.
Add milk and continue cooking for 30 minutes more. Stir in pinch nutmeg. Season to taste with salt and pepper.