There are many versions of this recipe, but I believe this is an authentic Bolognese sauce. In fact, I went all the way to Bologna, Italy to learn how to make it!
In Bologna this sauce is known as Ragù alla Bolognese or Ragù Classcio Bolognese.
There are many debates on what makes an authentic Bolognese sauce. My instinct is to stick to the native region where it was created and from which it derives its name – Bologna. There are still slight differences within the region but they all produce something quite magical to eat. The Academia Italiana della Cucina officially registered the recipe with the Bologna Chamber of Commerce in 1982, and still there are opinions. Lots of them.
Tomatoes are not a main ingredient in this sauce despite the tomato-based sauces you find all over the United States and in fact much of the non-Italian western world (and possibly a few tourist restaurants in Italy). A Bolognese sauce is based on broth, typically a beef broth and more resembles a stew preparation – there is no tomato sauce here. So like many of us, if you are used to making the traditional meat-and-tomato pasta sauce, you’ll need to switch gears to your beef stew skills to understand how to make an authentic Bolognese sauce.
A Few Things to Note
Dicing and Simmering:
The one thing that is very important to this dish is to have everything diced evenly and in small (approximately ¼-inch) pieces to ensure even cooking and presentation. This sauce is not something you rush, it needs to simmer slowly so the flavors develop together and become richer. The seasonings are limited to salt and pepper, nothing aromatic happening here, not even a bay leaf.
Pasta Style & Cheese:
The traditional pasta to serve it over is Tagliatelle, which is ideal, although Fettuccine will do in a pinch if that’s all your local store offers. And be sure to use a freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, applied at the table. Parmigiano-Reggiano is a delicious cheese from Parma, very near Bologna.
NOTE: Tagliatelle is essentially Fettuccine. In Bologna it’s called Tagliatelle and in Rome it’s called Fettuccine. You will find that different regions will have different names for the same pasta. Same happens with cookies :)
Authentic Bolognese Sauce
3 tbsp finely diced onion
2 tbsp finely diced carrot
2 tbsp finely diced celery
The combination of onion, carrot and celery is called ‘soffritto’ and is the base for many Italian sauces.
1/3 cup diced pancetta
3/4 lb sirloin beef trimmed and diced into 1/4 inch pieces
32 oz beef stock you may or may not use it all, just depends on how long you decide to simmer
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp butter
1/2 cup dry white wine
1. In a saucepan over medium heat, add the butter and olive oil.
2. Next add onion, carrot and celery to the saucepan and stir for about 5 minutes.
3. When the onions are translucence add the pancetta.
4. After about 10 minutes, add the diced sirloin and continue to cook down the liquid from the meat.
5. Once the liquid has mostly evaporated, add the dry white wine and continue to stir the sauce.
If you don’t want to use wine, substitute this with beef broth.
6. When wine has mostly evaporated, add the tomato paste and another cup of beef broth.
7. At this point the color of the sauce should be a light brown, not red.
8. Reduce heat to low, and continue to cook the sauce, semi-covered.
9. When the stock has mostly evaporated, add another cup of beef stock and keep simmering for 1 hour.
10. The more your cook your sauce, if you keep adding stock (little by little, tablespoons at at time) the better it will be.
It can simmer for up to 4 hours (again, think ‘stew’) but 2 hours in total will be enough for a good sauce.
For more check out my other Italian Dishes!