This recipe has been my fall back for years now-- it's reliable, flexible, and such a crowd pleaser. Whenever I'm unsure of what to make for friends or family, this classic bolognese always comes to mind. It's the ultimate comfort food. It does take a while for the milk and wine to cook down, so I usually start in the early afternoon to give the flavors plenty of time to meld. Best of all, it freezes extremely well and I love to double (even triple!) the recipe to stock the freezer for a quick homemade meal. But even after doubling, the sauce is just so rich and flavorful, it doesn't always make it to the freezer!
Tossing it with spaghetti or linguine is a classic way to use the sauce, and I've used it in lasagna (alternating layers of bechamel, topped with mozzarella) with unforgettable results. I've also thought it would be wonderful in crostini form, perhaps on a bed of fresh ricotta and a glass of Barbera...
classic bolognese sauce
makes 2 heaping cups, for about 6 servings and 1 1/2 pounds pasta | recipe from "Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking" by Marcella Hazan
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 tablespoons butter plus 1 tablespoon for tossing the pasta
½ cup chopped onion
⅔ cup chopped celery
⅔ cup chopped carrot
¾ pound ground beef chuck (or you can use 1 part pork to 2 parts beef)
freshly ground black pepper
1 cup whole milk
1 cup dry white wine
1 ½ cups canned imported Italian plum tomatoes, cut up, with their juice
1 ¼ to 1 ½ pounds pasta
freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese at the table
Put the oil, butter and chopped onion in the pot and turn the heat on to medium. Cook and stir the onion until it has become translucent, then add the chopped celery and carrot. Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring vegetables to coat them well.
Add ground meat, a large pinch of salt and a few grindings of pepper. Crumble the meat with a fork, stir well and cook until the beef has lost its raw, red color.
Add milk and let it simmer gently, stirring frequently, until it has bubbled away completely. Add a tiny grating -- about 1/8 teaspoon -- of nutmeg, and stir. This usually takes about 30- 40 minutes.
Add the wine, let it simmer until it has evaporated, then add the tomatoes and stir thoroughly to coat all ingredients well. When the tomatoes begin to bubble, turn the heat down so that the sauce cooks at the laziest of simmers, with just an intermittent bubble breaking through to the surface. Cook, uncovered, for 3 hours or more, stirring from time to time. While the sauce is cooking, you are likely to find that it begins to dry out and the fat separates from the meat. To keep it from sticking, add 1/2 cup of water whenever necessary. At the end, however, no water at all must be left and the fat must separate from the sauce. Taste and correct for salt.
Toss with cooked drained pasta, adding the tablespoon of butter, and serve with freshly grated Parmesan on the side.