If you read up on the city of Bologna, you will learn that one of it's nicknames is La Grassa (The Fat). I love that. Think mortadella, salame rosa, tortellini, lasagne and tagliatelle. Ohhhhhh my. Bologna is the capital of the region of Emilia~Romagna and to many, the gastronomic capital of all of Italy. Time to hop on another virtual flight. I NEED to go there. Oh, and speaking of wine (were we?), Emilia is known for Lambrusco, while Romagna is known for Sangiovese. And speaking of hogs (were we?), lots of cattle and lots of hogs around there. If I ever make it to Bologna, I will share it ALL with you right here in KPK.
Let's talk about the sauce, shall we? Classic Bolognese ragu' is made with pancetta, beef, carrots, celery, onion, wine, a small amount of tomato sauce, milk, salt & pepper. It's a standard process of beginning with the soffrito, adding ingredients, cooking, simmering and reducing for a long time on the stovetop to really develop the flavors. There are so many versions, it's impossible to write about all of them. Some cooks like to add chicken livers, or ground pork, or some Italian sausage. Fresh or dried herbs can be added. I like to add earthiness with porcini and/or portabella mushrooms if I'm feelin' it. Some people add cream instead of milk for extra richness. The soffrito (onion, carrots, celery) can be started with butter or olive oil. I could go on forever. The truth is that nowadays, folks are calling any meat sauce "Bolognese". This version is definitely another KPK recipe that you can adjust to your liking. If you don't like Rosemary, don't date her. I mean, if you prefer thyme, use thyme. I must admit, when I watched Jamie Oliver (one of my idols) prepare this dish in a 2002 episode of "Oliver's Twist" (which is available for your viewing and educational pleasure on Netflix), I was skeptical of using a large amount of fresh rosemary because I would not ordinarily use fresh rosemary OR dried oregano, for that matter, in a Bolognese sauce. News: I have been converted.
I am really ticked at myself for not snapping photos during the process of making this sauce. It looked and smelled divine and I was more into cooking than I was photography on Tuesday night. Below is the recipe which I have modified to make your life easy. When I watched Jamie make the sauce, he did not give exact quantities, but was really easy to follow and used few ingredients.
Bolognese Ragu al Forno
(Bolognese Sauce in the Oven)
Ingredients (in order of appearance) : )
a drizzle of olive oil (for the pan)
12 oz. center cut bacon, cut into small pieces
5 or 6 stalks of fresh rosemary, stripped from stems and finely chopped
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 1/2 lbs. ground beef
dried oregano to taste (about a tablespoon or so)
1-2 large (28 oz.) cans of whole peeled tomatoes (you know I like Dei Fratelli brand)
(I used 1 1/2 cans)
red wine (I used about 1 wineglass)
The Process (I love this)
You'll need an ovenproof vessel. Ideally, something like a casserole type pan that can go from stovetop to oven (like LeCreuset or other enameled, heavy duty casserole). I used a vintage Magnalite roaster from my Amelia DePalma Fioretti collection. Thanks Mom.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
OK. Drizzle a small amount of olive oil into the pot/pan. Add the bacon which you have cut into nice small pieces. Cook until the fat renders and the bacon becomes crispy. Add the chopped rosemary. Sniff. Admire. Stir.
Add the onion. Cook a bit. Add the garlic. Cook a bit more. Don't burn.
Add the beef. Cook and brown on medium heat for awhile. Then, add the remaining ingredients. The oregano, the tomatoes and the wine. Break the tomatoes up a bit with a wooden spoon. Bring the whole shebang up to a boil and let it do it's thing for about 5 minutes or so.
Then, here's the part I really like.
Turn off the burner. Place a sheet of parchment paper directly on top of the sauce, covering it completely. You can easily tear or cut the parchment to fit. The parchment will keep the sauce from forming a crusty edge and it will also keep all of the flavor locked in while this delicious and meaty sauce is baking in your oven. Place your parchment-topped, Bolognese-filled casserole on the middle rack in your oven. Bake for one hour.
Here's the other part I really like.
Now, you can drink wine, enjoy your company, wash dishes, tidy up, make a salad, drink more wine and eagerly anticipate the perfection of your finished product. Throw a pot of water on to boil during the last 15 minutes or so. Boil your favorite pasta in the water to which you have added a good amount of kosher salt. Don't skimp on the salt. Unless you like bland pasta. Note: I honestly did not season the sauce with salt because of the salt in the bacon and it turned out beautifully. Pasta Note: Thick and hearty, meaty sauces like this one are better with thicker pastas (in my opinion) even though "Spaghetti Bolognese" is popular worldwide. I would prefer a chunkier pasta or a thicker pasta. The pictured dish above was a beautiful Pappardelle but I think Rigatoni would be nice or that gorgeous Trottole (you can buy Culinary Circle brand at Jewel), or of course, the classic Tagliatelle. When you remove the sauce from the oven, stir it and taste it. I know you'll love it. Toss your pasta with some of the sauce and top each serving with more sauce plus a freshly grated mountain of Parmigiano cheese. Geeeeez, you do know that Parmigiano comes from Parma which is located, guess where? In Emilia~Romagna. And, my friends, if you are making your salad with good balsamic vinegar from Modena, guess where Modena is located? Right. Emilia~Romagna.
Click HERE for a printable version of the recipe (for Sharon M)
Our wine of choice for this dinner was
I know, it's not from Emilia~Romagna, but it is from Tuscany, which is right next door. This was a lovely wine, 80% Sangiovese, 10% Canaiolo, 10% Colorino. 100% good. Juicy and delicious from the hills of Fiesole.
WOW! How can you NOT love Italian food?
Make something Italian today.