Authentic Italian Bolognese Sauce
One of my favorite restaurants is Mamma Luisa's in Newport, Rhode Island. One of their most popular dishes is their bolognese over fresh house made pasta. Even if we decide to order a different dish to try we still ALWAYS order the bolognese to share.
If you are new to what exactly bolognese sauce is, let me explain...it is a meat sauce that is slow cooked over several hours. There is tomato in the sauce but the consistency at the end is thick and hearty, showcasing the meat as the main ingredient versus the tomato like in a classic marinara.
My twins birthday was in early February so I decided to make a HUGE pot of the sauce and purchase fresh pasta (not dried that you get in the box at the grocery store) because a hearty sauce really pairs nicely with the lighter and fresher texture of fresh pasta. If you are local to Connecticut I got my fresh pasta HERE, but you can google and likely find a local Italian market in your area that carries fresh pasta.
I honestly did not necessarily use one recipe in particular, I read a whole bunch of recipes, envisioned as well as I could the flavors of Mamma Luisa's, and just went with it. I also tripled the ingredients to make a very large batch. I will share with you the recipe for making one batch. I do recommend, however, doubling it. This is a more time consuming sauce so my feeling is you might as well make extra so you can freeze it.
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup salted butter
1 large yellow onion finely diced
2-3 large carrots finely diced
4 celery heart stalks (or 2 long stalks) finely diced
4-5 garlic cloves finely diced
A bunch of fresh basil leaves
4.5 ounces pancetta (diced into 1/4 in cubes)
*note, I found packaged/diced pancetta at Aldi which I used and definitely recommend
Kosher salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste
Ground nutmeg (amount depends on your taste, I sprinkled it in little by little because did not want it to be an overwhelming flavor, but I do recommend adding it, adds a warmth and richness to the sauce)
2.5 pounds of lean ground meat (a blend of beef, veal and pork)
*you can typically find this in the meat aisle labeled as meatloaf blend or mix. I did not get this because I was using large quantities so made sense to buy separate bulk packages of each. But it works for smaller batches! You could also just use lean ground beef if you are opposed to pork and veal.
1 cup dry white wine (I used chardonnay)
1-2 cups milk or heavy cream (I prefer heavy cream)
Ricotta cheese (serve each bowl with a large dollop on top)
Parmesan cheese, grated
1 28 oz can San Marzano tomatoes (dump them in a large bowl and using either clean hands or an immersion blender break up the tomatoes into smaller chunks)
*This is a MUST, they NEED to be San Marzano. It is a higher quality tomato grown in one specific region of Italy. Most supermarkets carry them you just need to look. They are more pricey but absolutely worth it; don't skimp on the tomatoes!!!
1 cup beef stock, low sodium
1. Heat a very large sauce pan ( I ended up having to use two for my huge batch) on medium heat. Add oil and butter. Once melted add onion, celery, carrots, garlic, and sprinkle with salt. Saute for 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently. You do not want to brown the veggies but want them to soften.
2. Once the vegetables have softened, add the diced pancetta and saute until the fat has rendered and pancetta gets golden browned.
3. Turn your heat up to medium high/high and add your ground meat in 3 batches. You want the meat to get browned and not boil, so adding smaller amounts will give the meat more room to get browned. Be sure to use a wooden spoon and break up the meat so it is crumbly.
4. Lower heat to medium and add wine. Let cook a few minutes to allow the alcohol to cook off and pan to deglaze.
5. Add the tomatoes (and all of their juice), the beef stock, add salt and pepper and about a 1/4 teaspoon or a few good sprinkles of nutmeg. Give it a good stir to combine all of the ingredients. NOTE** I used an immersion blender and broke up my tomatoes in a separate large bowl before adding them to the meat and veggie mixture. You could add them whole but will have a chunkier sauce, I recommend breaking them up.
6. Bring to a full boil, then reduce heat and allow the sauce to simmer on the lowest heat for 4 hours ( I simmered my tripled batch for 5 hours because it was so much sauce). Some recipes suggest leaving it half covered, I left it completely uncovered during the simmering process.
7. Be sure to stir the sauce every so often.
8. Once done, you will notice a significant amount of liquid has evaporated and the sauce should have a thick, porridge like consistency. I add my heavy cream at the end as well as torn up pieces of fresh basil.
9. Serve over fresh pasta and top with grated parmesan cheese, a good dollop of ricotta cheese and some more fresh basil.
10. Enjoy! This sauce is worth every minute of time it takes to make!!! I promise!
Sauce got MEGA rave reviews at the twins birthday, the Italian grandmas said it was the best they ever had, and despite being a tripled batch there was very little leftover sauce! MAKE IT YOU'LL LOVE IT!!