I’ve mentioned before that the first thing I ever learnt to make was spaghetti Bolognese. It was a simple and quickly cooked meal and I’ve continued to make versions of it over the years. Until now though, I’ve never made a more authentic version. I have never been to Italy or even eaten a Bolognese sauce that was actually cooked by an Italian, so I struggle to call this ‘authentic’ or ‘traditional.’ However, this is certainly the most traditional Bolognese that I’ve ever made.
In Italy, traditional recipes vary greatly from region to region and even nonna to nonna. Some recipes use white wine, while others use red. Some would never use a bay leaf while others swear by one. What you will definitely need to make this, is patience and a heavy based saucepan or an enamel casserole dish. Slow cooking a simple vegetable mix, heavily browning some mince and then slowly cooking it all, gives an amazing depth of flavour from such simple ingredients.
You know those hard crumbly bits that you get on the edges of a Parmesan wedge? I used to cut them off and throw them out. Now I save them and put them in a little container in the freezer to use in recipes like this. They slowly cook and melt into the sauce and provide such a great umami flavour. If you don’t have any at hand, just use the edges of a wedge of Parmesan.
Cut the veggies into small even pieces. I can never be bothered to cut them into teeny tiny cubes, just cut them as small as you can without going insane.
Italians call this vegetable mix a sofritto and the French, a mirepoix. Either way, it’s a great base for casseroles and soups and cooked low and slow like this, it imparts an amazing sweetness.
Add the mince in small batches to brown and only add the next batch once the last has completely browned up.
You want to really caramelize and crisp up that mince. The bottom of the pot should be dotted with brown crispiness and all of that will be soaked up into the sauce once you deglaze. You’ll know you’ve done well if the wine turns a muddy colour once you have scraped everything up.
Of course you could serve this over your choice of pasta but if I’m seeking something a bit lighter, I also love this spooned over of some steamed greens. Either way, make sure you add some freshly grated Parmesan on top.
This makes a big batch that will feed at least 6. It will stretch even further if you don’t feel the need to put a huge dollop of rich, meaty sauce on top of your pasta. I personally go with the huge dollop though. Leftovers freeze really well. So even if you are just making this for 2, I recommend making the full batch and freezing the rest for an easy meal at another time.
Big Batch Bolognese – Adapted from Food Nouveau
Ingredients – serves 6
- 2 tbs olive oil
- 2 tbs unsalted butter
- 1 brown onion, chopped into small pieces
- 2 medium carrots, chopped into small pieces
- 2 sticks of celery, chopped into small pieces
- 4 garlic cloves, chopped finely
- 1 tsp salt flakes plus extra for seasoning
- 300g minced pork
- 300g minced beef
- 1½ cups of red wine
- 1 tbs or 15g of roughly chopped Parmesan cheese rinds
- 1 cup of milk
- 1 dried bay leaf
- 1 can chopped tomatoes, not drained
- cracked black pepper for seasoning
- Heat oil and butter in a heavy based saucepan or enamel casserole. Saute the onion, carrots, celery and garlic on a low heat for 15 minutes. Add the tsp of salt while the vegetables are cooking.
- Increase the heat to medium then add the meat in small batches to brown. Break up with a spoon as it browns. Only add the next batch of mince when the last batch has browned all over.
- Once all of the mince has been added and browned, increase the heat to high and cook for 15 minutes to develop crispy golden bits on the meat and in the bottom of the pan. Stir occasionally and lower the heat if the meat starts to burn.
- After 15 minutes, decrease the heat back to medium and deglaze with the red wine. Really concentrate on scuffing up all of the brown bits on the bottom of the pan.
- Continue cooking on medium until the wine has reduced by half or for 4-5 minutes.
- Add the rest of the ingredients to the pot along with 2 cups of water and some cracked black pepper. Bring to a boil then partially cover and simmer on low for 2 hours.
- Check and stir occasionally. If the mix dries out too much, add ½ cup of water to it at a time.
- Before serving, remove the bay leaf and check for seasoning. The Parmesan should have added a fair bit of salty taste, but add more salt if needed.
- Served over pasta with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.