Pasta al ragù, the real Bolognese sauce!

Italians are pretty rigorous and unbending about their food. And they are right, because a country’s culinary identity is so important to preserve! Italian dishes are the most famous food worldwide, but not without a number of misconceptions :

No, you don’t eat pasta any which way – it’s an art! Each pasta shape was designed for matching the perfect sauce, ingredient or cooking method (to learn more, discover the very interesting cookbook and website The geometry of pasta).

Among these misconceptions about the Italian gastronomic culture, spaghetti Bolognese! First of all, Bolognese sauce is much more than a simple tomato sauce with minced meat. Second, you cannot eat Bolognese sauce with spaghetti but with tagliatelle (usually homemade). The silky and thin ribbon shape helps the oily aromatic sauce to coat the pasta. Bolognese sauce gets along very well too with « pasta with holes » such as penne or rigatoni, because the sauce stays inside the pasta and you get the perfect tasting match!

It is time to break the misconceptions and discover the authentic Bolognese sauce! Of course, you will find some variations; from home to home, from region to region, an infinite number of interpretations – each cook convinced their method is the best and the only correct way. I give you here, the recipe I learnt from some Italians, traditional in some respect. And when you’ve tried it, you will never be ordering spaghetti bolognese again! 🙂

Prep and cooking: 1 hour

Serves 3 as a main:

  • 1 onion
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 celery stalk
  • 1 rosemary stalk
  • 2 to 3 sage leaves
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 cup red or white wine (I prefer red)
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste
  • 12 oz minced meat (half beef, half pork)
  • Olive oil
  • 6 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
  • 12 oz dried penne or rigatoni or fresh tagliatelle

Peel and dice thinly the vegetables (onion, carrot, celery).

In a wide frying pan, sauté the onion with a drizzle of olive oil on a medium heat.

Add the carrots and celery. Cook for few minutes until softened and golden brown.

Peel the clove of garlic, remove the sprout, cut in half and add to the pan.

Add a drizzle of olive oil, then the meat, rosemary and sage. Fry until the meat has browned with a fair proportion of crispy bits.

Salt and pepper.

Deglaze with the wine, and add the tomato paste.

Cook at a very gentle simmer, uncovered, for at least 30 minutes until the sauce is thick. Of course the longer you cook the sauce, the better and tastier.

Add a little water if it dries too much or too quickly.

In a  big pot, bring water to a boil with salt (5 cups of water with 1/2 tbsp of salt to cook 3.5 oz of pasta). Cook the pasta according to the recommended timing on the pack, stirring from time to time to avoid the pasta sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Don’t put oil in the water to cook the pasta. It prevents the sauce from coating the pasta.

Remove the garlic, rosemary and sage from the sauce, before serving.

Drain the pasta and pour in soup plates. Top with Bolognese sauce and grated parmesan cheese.

Stir and enjoy immediately.

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