Ragu alla Bolognese (Italian Meat Sauce)

Author: Dave & Sandy
Serves 6


½ oz. dried porcini mushrooms ½ lb. lean veal shoulder
½ lb. lean beef round or shin 2 ½ oz. pancetta or blanched bacon
4 oz. large yellow onion 1 large carrot
1 large celery stalk 3 Tbs. butter
3 Tbs. olive oil ½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. black pepper ½ cup milk
½ cup dry red or white wine 2 ½ cups canned plum tomatoes, drained
freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese freshly ground pepper

Put the porcini in a small bowl, add one cup barely-warm water, and let them sit for at least 30 minutes.  Lift the mushrooms by hand, squeezing as much water as possible out of them back into the bowl.  Rinse the mushrooms in several changes of water, scraping clean any embedded soil.  Pat dry with paper towels, chop coarsely, and dry.  Filter the water in which the mushrooms soaked through a strainer lined with paper towels, collecting it in another bowl.  Boil the mushroom water down to about half its volume.

With the food processor, finely chop first the beef and veal, then the pancetta, onion, carrot and celery.  Saute the pancetta and minced vegetables in butter and oil in a heavy-bottomed casserole for 2 minutes over medium heat.  Then turn heat to very low, cover, and continue cooking 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In the food processor, coarsely chop the tomatoes.

Uncover the pot and raise heat to medium-high.  Add the beef, veal, mushrooms, salt and pepper.  Cook, stirring constantly, until the meats just begin to lose their red raw color.

Add the reserved mushroom water and the milk and let it simmer gently, stirring frequently, until it has bubbled away completely.

Pour in the wine and simmer until it is entirely evaporated (about 5 minutes).  Add the tomatoes, stir everything together, and simmer barely bubbling, uncovered, for one to three more hours.  If it begins to dry out and stick, add ½ cup water whenever necessary.  At the end, no water at all must be left and the fat must separate from the sauce.

If possible, complete to this point several hours in advance, or even the day before.  Take off the stove and let it cool.  May be frozen at this point.

Shortly before serving, bring the sauce slowly to a simmer for 5 minutes.  Stir in cream or milk, heat slightly, and serve immediately over pasta, with parmigiano-reggiano cheese and pepper.

Notes and Variations

Recipe can be doubled.

Original recipe called for heavy cream instead of milk, and 5 Tbs butter instead of three.


La Tavola Italiana