We're ditching our galoshes and dodging the cold in favor of a Big Night In all month long. Follow our lead right this way.
Beef, pancetta, carrot, celery, onion, tomato sauce, whole milk, dry wine, perhaps a little olive oil, maybe some broth, salt, pepper. Cream if you want to get crazy.
Those would be the only ingredients in the recipe for Ragù alla Bolognese—at least, according to the Accademia Italiana della Cucina, which filed said recipe with the Bologna Chamber of Commerce, the Italian city where the slow-simmered meat sauce originated.
But page through a handful of cookbooks, Italian and otherwise, and you'll find countless variations. Some leave out the tomato entirely. Ground pork or even veal might be added to the mix. Look closely and you may spot a little nutmeg or chicken liver slipped into the pot. Garlic? Sure, but don't mention it to a Bolognese purist or you may find yourself up sauce creek without a paddle.
What's so great about Bolognese is how you can interpret it and make it your own. And how it fills your kitchen with the most wonderful smell of cooked onions and beef. And how it's the perfect project to tackle on a frigid Sunday afternoon, when you don't feel much like leaving the house anyway—even better if you're having some friends over for dinner.
So why rush it? Revel in the process of making our version of Ragù alla Bolognese (see the recipe), which food editor Andy Baraghani adapted from his days at the legendary Chez Panisse Café in Berkeley, CA. It has a few surprise flavor-building elements (porcini mushrooms! sage! Parmesan!) we can get behind.
Pour yourself a glass of wine and concentrate on chopping the skirt steak into even cubes—sure, it takes more time than just picking up a package of ground beef, but trust us, it will taste richer and meatier this way. Let the pancetta get crisp and the sofrito of onions, carrots and celery sweat out completely until they're sweet and soft, then add an extra punch of umami with porcini mushrooms.
Let the steak brown, then add in the ground pork shoulder. Bask in the aroma as a bouquet garni and leftover Parmesan rinds are dropped into the pot. Let the white wine, milk and stock reduce, low and slow, until the sauce becomes thick, rich and unctuous.
When the sauce is done, you'll want to spoon it over pasta—traditionally, that would be an egg noodle like tagliatelle.
We won't tell the pasta police if you decide to switch it up.
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