I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – Bolognese is the ultimate Italian comfort food. Meaty, herby, dense, carby (word?? yes), and loaded with character, it really is the perfect feel-good meal. This knock your socks off pasta can be traced all the way back to Bologna in a late 1800’s Italian cookbook written by Florentine and foodie extraordinaire, Pellegrino Artusi. La Scienze in Cucina e L’arte di Mangiar Bene or, Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well, names Bolognese as a pasta sauce using veal and pancetta along with onion, carrot, celery, broth, various herbs and spices with a splash of cream at the end. (note to self: find this book. buy it.) Optional add-ins were things like truffle slices (YUM) and chicken liver; in the years since, the dish has evolved again and again. At its heart, though, there are a few characteristics that make a Bolognese a Bolognese and set it apart from its foreign knockoffs.
The noodle Authentic Bolognese is tossed with a flat noodle made from egg and wheat – Emilia-Romagna’s tagliatelle. That’s right, true Bolognese isn’t made with spaghetti.
Just enough sauceThis goes for pretty much all pasta, but traditionally, pasta Bolognese isn’t drenched in sauce. It’s smothered in just enough to coat all of the noodles – no more, no less.
It’s all about the meat The ground meat and spices are really the stars of the show with little emphasis on the passata(tomato paste/sauce).
While you’d think that since this is a red meat/tomato-based dish, red wine would do the trick – but traditional Bolognese actually calls for a dry white.
Milk I know it may sound strange to add any sort of dairy to a meat/tomato pasta, but trust me. Adding a splash of whole milk tenderizes the meat to no end and adds a unique oomph to the sauce.
What’s the difference between ragù and Bolognese? Ragù is just a sauce that is meat-based – ie. Neapolitan ragù and ragu Barese. Basically, all Bolognese is ragù, but not all ragù is Bolognese.
What is this recipe? I took a combination of several old school Bolognese recipes and tried to mash them together to make my own without skimping on any traditional ingredients/techniques. The only thing missing is added celery in the soffrito. Celery is seasonal here, so it’s not available. I think the carrots do a fine job, though! As far as the noodles go, I just tweaked a Fettucine recipe I learned in Rome. They are the real deal 🙂
Let’s do the sauce first.Here’s what you’ll need: 70/30 beef pork mix, onions, carrot, garlic cloves, red chili, beef bouillon, tomato paste, dry basil, dry rosemary, nutmeg, crushed chili, butter, olive oil, dry white wine, cider vinegar, whole milk, salt and pepper, crushed chili(optional).
*note: not all ingredients are pictured here. I spaced and forgot to retake the photo with the ingredients I initially forgot.
Start by making a soffrito in your pot. Dice up onion, grate garlic and carrot, add rosemary and a splash of olive oil. Stir until they are soft and fragrant.
After your soffrito is soft, mix some salt and pepper in your meat and add it to the pot. This is 500g (1 ish pounds) of 70/30 beef/pork. Break up the meat, mix, and allow to brown.
Now add in the wine to deglaze the pot, add in your oregano, basil, chopped chili, tomato paste, broth, bay leaves. Everything but the milk. Say goodbye for at least two hours.
In the meantime, let’s make the pasta!
For the tagliatelle, you’ll need egg, flour, olive oil, salt. That’s it 🙂
Pour in the flour and make a nest. crack eggs and stir together. It will be liquidy and need more flour – add it a cup at a time until you get a dough-y consistency and can work with your hands.
Once it’s smooth enough that it isn’t sticking to your hands, knead on a floured surface for 5 minutes and then seal for 40 minutes.
Once your 40 minutes is up, roll out the dough as thin as possible on your floured surface. After you get it as thin as you can manage, wrap the dough as you see in the photo below. While moving the pin back and forth, work your palms horizontally. This will thin the dough more without tearing it meaning you get even perfectly thin noodles!
Once you’ve thinned your dough, fold the top of the sheet to the middle and fold again until your left with a seal that you can pull up from. Now cut across the roll in about 0.3-0.5 inch increments.
Now you are ready to separate your noodles – like this
As you pull apart your noodles, set them to dry on a rack for 10-15 minutes. If you don’t have one, don’t worry, a hanger will do! Just give it a quick wipe first.
Back to the sauce!
When you get to hour three, splash in some apple cider vinegar and then the milk.
After about an hour, go ahead and drop your pasta in. Because these noodles are fresh, they cook in just two minutes. While the noodles are cooking, have a few taste tests of the Bolognese, add more of what feels right.
Add a splash of olive oil and salt to the boiling water. It keeps the noodles from sticking together and the water from boiling over.
Strain the tagliatelle and toss it with the Bolognese. This step is important! The noodles absorb the flavors of the sauce better when they are both piping hot.
Add parm and toss. This is Brett’s favorite part so he does the honors! 🙂
Tagliatelle Alla Bolognese
- 500 g ground beef/pork mix (70/30)
- 2 medium yellow onions (diced
- 1-2 medium carrots (grated)
- 5 garlic cloves (grated)
- 1 red chili
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 1/2 cup tomato paste
- 1 1/2 cup beef broth
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 tsp nutmeg
- 1 tbsp rosemary
- 1 tbsp basil
- 1/2 tbsp oregano
- 1/2 tbsp black pepper
- 1 tbsp crushed chili peppers (optional)
- 1 pinch of salt
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan
- 4 large eggs (tagliatelle)
- 3 cups flour (plus more for dusting) (tagliatelle)
- 1 tbsp olive oil (tagliatelle)
- 1 tsp salt (tagliatelle)
- add olive oil, onions, garlic, carrots and rosemary to pot. Create a soffrito by allowing to soften and stirring until fragrant. About 5 minutes.
- season ground meat with a dash of salt and pepper, work with hands
- add meat to soffrito, break apart and combine. Allow to brown for 10 minutes
- add wine to deglaze pot
- add broth, tomato paste, chopped chili, bay leaves, and all spices. Stir together.
- Bring to a boil then reduce to simmer and let sit for 2-3 hours.
- If using handmade tagliatelle, begin that in the meantime. If using packaged noodles, just sit back and relax 🙂
- Pour in the whole milk, stir and let sit for one hour
- Have a few taste tests and add what feels right, I recommend adding the crushed chili here
- Make a nest with 1 c flour, crack the eggs inside, stir
- Add flour a cup at a time while combining until you get a workable dough
- Work with hands on floured surface, knead for 5 minutes adding flour as needed
- Seal dough in wrap or bag and let sit for 40 minutes (no air!)
- Roll out dough on floured surface until as thin as possible
- fold dough over rolling pin and continue to roll the pin front and back while moving palms side to side. This is what creates a thin and even sheet to cut from. (photo above)
- take top half and fold toward the middle until you have created roughly a 3 in flat roll. Be sure that the is an edge on top of roll. (photo above)
- cut dough roll in 1/2 inch strips
- unravel pasta ribbons and line to dry on hanger for 10-15 minutes
- boil water, add splash of olive oil and salt, boil noodles for 2 minutes
- strain and toss with Bolognese. Serve.
- serve with a bold red
- If available to you, swap dried rosemary and basil for fresh. Add a stalk of diced celery to the soffrito.