How to prepare the classic and authentic Italian “Ragù Bolognese”

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Ragù Bolognese is one of the most famous sauce in the world. Everyone loves it: it is fragrant, delicious, unique; nothing says family like it. Although the traditional recipe has a specific method and cooking time, you may prepare it yourself wherever you are in the world, right  there in your kitchen! 

What is ragù?

It is a scrumptious sauce to season pasta (fresh eggs pasta is the most suitable: tagliatelle or cappelletti), made of four different kinds of meat (veal and pork), vegetables (carrots, celery, onions) to give taste, wine and milk. 

What is the best meat for ragù bolognese?

Veal and pork meat best fit: 

The traditional recipe wants fresh bacon and ham, but also the beef chuck, pork capocollo which provides flavor and the right amount of fat.

How the meat is ground makes the difference: it must be coarsely ground only once (grinding disk with 9mm hole).

What pasta goes with ragù?

Even if it is really appreciated all around the world, in Bologna (and in Italy) we do not eat “spaghetti with ragù”. Spaghetti al ragù first appeared in the menù of the Hotel Commodore in New York in 1923. Since then, Spaghetti al Ragù has become one of the most famous Italian dishes abroad; it has been canned and sold all around the world.

Ragù is wonderfully paired with fresh or dry egg tagliatelle, or with stuffed pasta such as cappelletti. Along with bechamel, it also seasons egg pasta sheets to make lasagne.

Well ragù is so scrumptious that can be paired with any pasta shapes; but do not tell the Bolognesi!

The recipe I am going to give you is the one from the genuine “holy” cookery books of the tradition of Bologna. This is not how I make it, but, actually it is a meaningful piece of that part of Italy I am very fond of., Emilia Romagna. You will find out how magical this recipe is. You will also find that it is not very difficult to make, the ingredients are quite ordinary (Italian products, easily available everywhere) and you do not need any specials skills.

It is made into two steps: first, it is cooked over high heat without lid; then the heat is reduced to low and it slowly simmers half-covered by a lid. Finally, a little milk makes it creamy and smooth.    

Ragù was born in 1487 to season only tagliatelle, and it was not a red sauce, as the tomato was introduced in 1790. In the past, there used to be several recipes of the ragù, in the 1982 the following recipes was officially registered.

Ragu Bolognese

You know what I am talking about. You have already tasted it and I am sure you have fallen in love with it at once: bolognese ragù! I think it is the best loved accompaniment to pasta.
It is a trap-ladden issue here, since every region of Italy has got its own recipe, and of course, everyone says they have the "only traditional one"! Ragù makes people get heated, indeed!
A traditional recipe has been standardized, but every housewife has inherited the family's one and has varied it over the years.
I don't use any wine, tomato paste, milk or butter, least of all cream. My ragù is not so "red" as the traditional one (actually, I am from Ferrara, not from Bologna, this makes the difference), anyway, try to make my recipe, it is a delight.
Please, keep in mind: don't be in a hurry because cooking a tasty ragù takes quite a lot of time; nothing is worse than undercooked ragù! Grant your ragù plenty of time, because all the ingredients have to combine together, be patient. 
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Keyword bolognese ragù, ragù, ragù sauce
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours
Servings 4 people

Ingredients

  • 150 gr fresh bacon
  • 100 gr carrots
  • 100 celery stalk
  • 100 gr onion
  • 300 gr

    coarsley ground beef chunk

  • 300 gr

    coarsley ground pork capocollo

  • 100 gr

    coarsley ground ham 

  • 1 glass

    dry white wine

  • 300 gr tomato puree
  • 1 glass

    half skimmed milk 

  • meat broth
  • 4 tbsp

    extra virgin olive oil 

  • salt and pepper to taste 

Instructions

  • Dice the bacon and finely chop celery, carrots and onion.
  • Take a heavy bottomed saucepan and brown the bacon with 4 tbsp of oil; add the vegetables and season with abundant salt to make them release their liquid; 
  • Fry over medium heat until softened and golden brown, make sure the water has evaporated because too liquid ragù does not taste good; 
  • Stir in all the ground meat, breaking up all the clumps of meat and brown over high medium heat. The mix should result smooth, golden brown, and dry. Be careful not to burn it. 
  • Pour the wine, combine well and boil off the alcohol.
  • Season with salt;
  • Add the tomato puree, or the peeped plum tomatoes with their liquid, cover with a tight-fitting lid; leave a small air-hole to let the vapor out. Reduce the heat to low, and leave to cook for about 2 hours;
  • Stir the broth in, if the sauce gets too thick;
  • Season with salt and pepper and, after about 2 hours, pour the milk for a creamy smooth sauce;
  • Cook for 5 minutes more and make sure the fat part of the meat has softened and evenly combined with the whole sauce.

Do you have any ragù left?

You should prepare ragù according to the recipe; 2 or 3 tbsp are enough to season an average serving of pasta (about 80-100gr); freeze the remaining. When ragù is cold, put it into 250ml container and store in the freezer at -18°C (-0.4°F) for 3 or 4 months.

How can you serve ragù?

  • Cook , drain and put pasta into a serving bowl. Pour the hot ragù; stir and toss well to coat pasta evenly. Serve hot! 
  • In case of frozen ragù, put it into a pan, add a few spoons of cooking water of pasta, cover with a lid and cook over low heat. When it is done, pour pasta directly into the pan with the ragù and stir fry for a few minutes to combine well.

How do you make ragù sauce tastier?

The registered recipe does not allow any variations, but in the secret of my kitchen I usually make a few changes! With addition of some basil leaves and rosemary when cooking, my ragù tastes stronger and fresher. Then, you may also like a little hot chili pepper, no more than that!

Please, leave cheese, cream, mushrooms, or garlic out: they taste good, but they don’t really have anything to do with ragù!

What do you eat with ragù?

Ragù is an ‘important’ sauce and it is prepared for special occasion, for Sunday lunches, for instance, because it takes time. Sunday lunch is a rich meal, but it is Sunday! Usually, starters come first, then the Tagliatelle al Ragù, some roast meat with a side, and finally, the dessert.

Well during the week, the meals are lighter: pasta with ragù (remember: you may freeze it and take it out of the freezer, when you need), is followed by some crispy green salad dressed with little oil and vinegar: your diet won’t be spoilt.

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