Friday, April 3, 2009

Ragu Bolognese from Mario Batali

This recipe is courtesy of Mario Batali’s book Molto Italiano. Mario is my kind of cook, passionate, knowledgeable and “healthy looking”. You know the old saying, do not trust the skinny cook; well I trust him in spade. Ragu Bolognese is one of those classic Italian recipe of which there are many versions each generating heated debates on their authenticity. Here is Mario’s take on the subject:

“Ragu Bolognese is perhaps one the most common recipes in the cucina of Emilia-Romagna and is an excellent example of the individual cook’s mark on a true regional classic. Everyone agrees that in the real Ragu there is more than one kind of meat and everyone agrees that there needs to be some tomato “stuff” in the Ragu. But whether it is equal parts veal, pork, and beef, and whether or not there is pancetta or prosciutto, whether it is tomato paste or doppio concentrato are issues and differences that will be hotly contested by cooks forever - all of whom the “real recipe” from the relevant mother, aunt, or nonna. Often two sisters who learned from the same mom may have entirely different Ragu recipes, each based on the different perception of the same base condiment. Other possible variations could be the addition of chicken livers, porcini mushrooms, or anchovies or even leaving out tomato altogether, because a Ragu is by no Italian’s definition a tomato sauce – in my world, there should be just a trace of pale pinkish brown. Suffice to say that my recipe was learned from Mara Giacometti, the chef at La Volta, who was born twenty-five minutes south of Bologna proper. I my opinion, this Ragu is just perfect.”
Mario Batali.

Ragu Bolognese
 ½ cup of extra virgin olive oil
 2 medium onions, finely chopped
 4 celery ribs, finely chopped
 2 carrots, finely chopped
 5 garlic cloves, sliced thin
 1 pounds of ground veal
 1 pound of ground pork
 4 ounces of pancetta or slab bacon, diced as small as possible or run through the medium holes of the butcher’s grinder
 One 6 ounce can of tomato paste
 1 cup of whole milk
 1 cup of white wine
 1 teaspoon fresh thymes leaves (or ½ teaspoon of dry)
 Salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a 6 to 8 quart heavy-bottomed pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat until hot. Add the onions, celery, carrots, and garlic and cook until the vegetables are translucent but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add the veal, pork, and the pancetta, increase heat to high, and brown the meat, stirring frequently. Add tomato paste, milk, wine, and thyme and bring just to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium low and simmer for 1 to 1 ½ hours. Season Ragu with salt and pepper, remove from heat and let cool. The Ragu can be refrigerated up to t days; it can also be frozen up to 1 month.

This sauce is excellent with penne, rigatoni, or other large pasta. I often make a lasagne alternating layers of this Ragu and béchamel seasoned with freshly grated parmesan reggiano. A surprisingly simple approach to lasagna, but one of the tastiest.


Philippe Daigle

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