To some, Spaghetti Bolognese is a quintessential statement about Italian cuisine. To others, the combination of Spaghetti and this type of meat sauce is an abomination. As is frequently the case with dishes that we associate with a given country or cuisine, our general interpretation is simply incorrect.
To get right to the point: Spaghetti Bolognese is not a traditional Italian dish!
Now that we have this revelation out of the way, let's look at the dish more closely:
You see, the sauce that Italians do know is ragù alla bolognese which, in Bologna, is traditionally served with fresh (not dried) Tagliatelle or, alternatively, it is used in the preparation of Lasagne al forno.
Never, ever, is it served with Spaghetti. As you can see from the title of this recipe, I don't care too much about the particular type of pasta served with this sauce... I want what I want! More importantly, my daughter doesn't eat any other pasta shape than Spaghetti – although she is open to variations on the theme: Angel Hair, thin Spaghetti, Bucatini, etc. are all acceptable.
Now, there is one thing above all that any person needs to know before embarking on the creation of this dish:
This is NOT a fast sauce. In fact, this sauce needs to cook for at least two hours but preferably for about three in order for all the ingredients to blend into the delicious ragù alla bolognese.
As you can probably imagine, there are many, many interpretations of this particular sauce. Every Nonna has her own recipe that she swears by. Consequently, if you ask any Italian what the best recipe for ragù alla bolognese is, the answer uniformly tends to be “Come lo fa la mamma!” (The way mom makes it!).
Here, then, is my interpretation. Before you get confused, though, I am neither Italian nor a Nonna... Still, I think you will find this recipe to be quite easy – even if it takes a long time to simmer.
4 Tbs. diced Pancetta (if you don't have Pancetta, use finely diced smoked bacon).
4 cloves of garlic
2 celery stalks
1 Tbs. fresh Oregano (or 1 tsp, dried)
1/2 lb. ground beef
1/2 lb. ground sausage (or ground pork)
1 28 oz. can finely dices tomatoes
2 cups of Water
2 Tbs. chopped fresh basil
½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
a dash of cream
Pasta of your choice – preferably fresh Tagliatelle, but really, anything will do. I used Bucatini.
Start by preparing all your ingredients:
Peel and finely dice the onions.
Mince the garlic
Peel the carrots, half them lenghtwise, and chop them into small pieces.
Half the celery stalks lenghtwise and chop them into small pieces as well.
Put a large sauce pan on the stove on medium heat.
Add 2 Tbs. of olive oil and let heat up.
Add the Pancetta (or bacon) and cook until it is lightly golden in color.
Add the chopped Oregano, stir, and let cook for another minute.
Add all the veggies to the pan.
Stir frequently and let the veggies soften – about 6 minutes or so. Make sure the veggies don't burn.
Add the ground meat and break it apart for a minute or so. Don't worry about browning it – it will be very well cooked when the dish is ready.
Add the can of tomatoes, stir.
Add 1 Tbs. of the chopped Basil.
Add 1 cup of water, stir.
Turn the heat down to simmer, cover the pot with a lid so that there is still a bit of an opening, and simmer for one hour!
Don't forget to stir the sauce every so often. If the sauce seems like it is drying out, add some more water.
Once the hour is up, remove the lid and let simmer for another 45 minutes, again making sure that the sauce doesn't dry out and stirring it occasionally.
In a separate pot, heat plenty of salted water.
Cook the pasta to your liking. Drain.
Remove the ragù from the heat, stir in the Parmigiano and the remainder of the basil.
Splash a bit of cream into the ragù as well – not much, though. Stir.
Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Serve with additional Parmesan.