Sauce in the Style of Bologna

Sugo alla Bolognese

Pappardelle alla Bolognese

Pappardelle alla Bolognese

To many, the district of Emilia-Romagna features the best of Italian cuisine and many of the foods we associate with Italy originated there — or so the locals claim. Balsamic vinegar (Modena), amaretti (Modena), prosciutto (Parma), Parmigiano Reggiano (Parma), and Grana Padano (Parma) are but a few of the area’s most famous contributions to Italian cuisine — and we’ve not yet mentioned the capital, Bologna. Home to what many believe to be the oldest, continuously running university in the World, the cooking of Bologna is often considered the Best of the Best and its contributions to Italian cuisine are many: mortadella, tortellini & tortelloni, lasagna(?), cannelloni(?), Sugo alla Bolognese, to name but a few. (Note: my family never referred to a sauce as “ragu”. “Sugo” was the word we used and that’s what will be used here to describe this sauce.)

One of the peculiarities of Italian cooking is that the preparation of a dish, any dish, can vary from district to district, province to province, town to town, and even house to house. Perhaps Chef Mario Batali said it best when he described Italian cuisine as the “cooking of Nonnas” and handed down from generation to generation.  With that history and with few recipes written down, it’s easy to see how the recipes can vary. When speaking of a Bolognese sauce, the first documented recipe for it appeared in the late 19th century, and, as recently as 1981, the Italian Academy of Cuisine (Accademia Italiana della Cucina) published what it considered to be the “classic” recipe (Source Wikipedia). If you’re expecting to find either of these recipes here, you’re going to be disappointed. Although many of the ingredients are the same, today’s recipe is one I’ve developed over a number of years and, if you ask me to write it down 2 years from now, it will probably be different from what I’m about to share. In short, it is, and will forever be, a work in progress. There are a few ingredients common to all Bolognese sauces and I urge you to assemble them and create your own sugo. One day your Grandkids will thank you.

To begin, many consider a Bolognese sauce as a tomato sauce that has meat. That’s not quite right. Most true Bolognese are predominantly meat with a bit of tomato or, as Chef Emeril Lagasse calls it, a “meat sauce with tomato.” To that end, I’ve included beef, veal, pork, sausage, and pancetta in the recipe to follow (see Notes). As for the tomato component, only tomato paste will be used below. No whole, chopped, or puréed tomatoes will be harmed in the making of this sugo. It’s also worth noting that most Bolognese feature relatively few spices and herbs, although I’ve included a couple because that’s just the way we Bartolini roll. Unique to a Bolognese, some form of dairy is added to the pot, though the timing may vary. I use a good amount, early in the preparation. Lastly, wine is added early on and though I choose to use a dry white, you may wish to use a red instead.

One more thing is worth mentioning and it’s a real time saver. The recipe calls for a number of ingredients chopped finely. Rather than chop them all — and since I do not like seeing pieces of carrot in my sauce — I smash the garlic and give the rest a rough chop before placing everything into the food processor. I let it run until the ingredients are all finely chopped and then add the mixture to the hot oil in the pan. Easy peasy!

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Sugo alla Bolognese Recipe

yield: 2.5 quarts (2.4 l)

Ingredients

  • 1 large onion, very finely chopped
  • 2 -3 carrots, very finely chopped
  • 2 -3 celery ribs, very finely chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, diced
  • 4 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 to 1 lb. (340 to 454 g) ground beef
  • 3/4 to 1 lb. (340 to 454 g) ground pork
  • 3/4 to 1 lb. (340 to 454 g) ground veal
  • 4 oz ground pancetta
  • 6 oz (170 g) ground pork sausage
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 12 oz half-and-half (whole milk or a mixture of whole milk & heavy cream may be substituted)
  • 1 can (12 oz, 355 ml) tomato paste
  • 2 cups low sodium beef stock
  • salt & pepper

Directions

  1. Heat oil in large sauce pan over a medium-high heat. Once hot, add carrots, onion, celery, garlic, and parsley, season lightly with salt & pepper, and sauté until the liquids are gone and the vegetables start to color.
  2. Add ground meats, stir well, and continue to sauté until well beyond the point where the meat is no longer pink. All of the juices should run clear and the meat should have darkened due to caramelization.
  3. Add the milk and sauté until about half has evaporated.
  4. Add tomato paste, mix thoroughly, and continue to sauté another 2 minutes.
  5. Add the wine and sauté until most has evaporated.
  6. Add the beef stock, stir well, and bring to a boil before reducing to a very low simmer.
  7. Continue to simmer until the sauce deepens in color and thickens — at least 2½ to 3 hours. Stir occasionally. At the end, season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  8. Sauce is ready for use with your favorite pasta or, once cooled, for storage in your refrigerator or freezer.

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Variations

Some recipes that I’ve seen, and tasted, include ground chicken livers with the meat mixture. Frankly, I don’t see the need for the ingredient, being happy with this sugo as it is. Then again. come back in a few years and you may find me extolling the virtues of chicken livers in my Sugo alla Bolognese.

While “Spaghetti alla Bolognese” is a dish common to many Italian restaurant menus on this side of the Atlantic, in Italy Sugo alla Bolognese is most often served with pappardelle, tagliatelle, and even fettuccine.

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Roll, Cut, & Unfurl Pappardelle

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Notes

Know thy sausage! The sausage you add will have a big impact on your sauce’s flavor. Choose it wisely lest you run the risk of “contaminating” your sugo with an unpleasant taste.

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It’s déjà vu all over again

Calamari FrittiI shared a Fried Calamari recipe 2 years ago, when this blog was still pretty young. Since then, it has become the most referenced recipe on my blog, by a nearly 2 to 1 margin, although Chicago Style Giardiniera is coming on strong. You can view the recipe that everyone is clamoring to see by clicking HERE.

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Coming soon to a monitor near you …

The Return of Burrata

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182 thoughts on “Sauce in the Style of Bologna

  1. Bolognese has got to be my favorite Italian sauce (I don’t feel like I have the right to use the word sugo). I will pass this recipe on to my master chef, my husband. In another life he had to have been Italian.
    Thanks for this little gold mine

    Like

    • Don’t have the right to use the word sugo? In our home that would have earned you extra points, big time! You probably would have left that night with a quart of sugo in your hand. 🙂
      I hope this recipe passes your Husband’s inspection.

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  2. Oh my: was about to close the computer . . . and guess what arrived 🙂 ! Well, John, today we definitely agree on at least two points. I DO think Bologna has some of the best food in Italy – it also has some of the finest in opera and chamber music and art and did have Marcella Hazan’s famous cookery school [I still often cook from her books. The bird lives in Florida now!] I believe everybody’s Sugo Bolognese is different and evolves but I love your recipe. Love that you use beef and veal and the amount off tomato paste will give it real depth! Mmh, am not so sure about the food processor: this ‘old-fashioned gal’ will continue to chop and my stock is low-sodium ’cause it is homemade 😀 ! Have a great week!!

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    • You once spoke of Ms. Hazan’s books and I’ve located one, “Amarcord: Marcella Remembers”, though it’s still on a wish list. I’ve declared a moratorium on cookbook buying for now.
      I’m glad you like the recipe and I, too, use homemade beef stock but haven’t posted my recipe yet. When I do, I’ll come back and make note of it in the recipe.
      Hope you have a great week, too!

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      • My apologies for having brought up Marcella up again but she was the ultimate purist in Emilia Romagna food [came from there] and your style SO reminds me of her cooking. She taught me over half of what I know about Italian food, was the top US Italian cooking teacher for decades and when she began her very famous cooking schools first in Bologna and then in Venice, just about every famous US [and other] chef attended her classes! As a young wioman I was booked in twice and could not make it 😦 ! Chopping: to each their own: I like a little more texture perchance and actually I love doing it 😀 !

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  3. Beef, pork, veal, pancetta AND pork sausage… just a glance through your ingredients list gives me a really good idea of how magnificent this sumo is going to taste. Definitely going to give it a try John. My own Bolognese ingredients look positively pedestrian in comparison!

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    • Thank you so much. I, too, make a number of sauces, a couple with meat but this one, though, is the Big Daddy of them all. Just be careful when choosing the sausage meat. It really does influence the sauce. I hope you will try it and enjoy it as much as we do.

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  4. Great post, John! I agree on the use of the food processor and had to smile at your version with parsley and garlic 🙂 Have you ever tried nutmeg? Completely agree on bolognese being meat sauce with tomato. Glad you served it with fresh egg pasta as is done in Bologna.

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    • Thank you, Stefan, for kind words and support. Yes, I’m not going to risk my fingers trying to get a fine dice on the carrots, et al. I’ve a food processor and I’m not afraid to use it! My family never made a tomato sauce that didn’t have parsley, onion, and garlic. I’m not about to go against that tradition. And the only pasta dough they made was with eggs. I’ve made dough using semolina and even buckwheat but still prefer eggs. I have, however, found Doppio 00 Farina, finally, and have been using it instead of All Purpose flour and to good effect.

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      • Great that you have found Farina 00 (doppio zero), it is indeed a lot better for fresh pasta than all-purpose flour.
        With a stand mixer, semolina works as well, and that is great for noodles but not so much for ravioli and the like.

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        • I’ve only used it a couple times but liked the feel of it. It’s double the cost of AP flour but I think it’s worth it. I’m looking forward to making ravioli with it. This Summer Zia and I will put it through its paces. 🙂
          (Thanks for the “doppio”. I just cannot proof read at all.)

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          • I prefer 00 over semolina for ravioli, as it is more delicate.
            The cost of most pasta dishes is not in the flour, even if it is twice the price of all-purpose.

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    • Oh, I hope you do find some, Mandy. And don’t forget to choose your sausage wisely. Its spices will go a long way in the sauce, especially being it simmers and reduces for so long. Good luck! I hope you both enjoy it as much as I do.

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  5. Interesting way of making Bolognese, I am enchanted by the cream, wine, stock and concentrated tomato combo. I will try this next time I make this dish. I am very much looking forward to more burrata, yay!

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    • Thanks, Laura, for commenting. This is a far different sauce from my other sauce with meat. In this one, the meat is definitely the star. It is a thick sauce with not much liquid but it sure is good! And the buratta is the reason why I posted this recipe today. I was going to wait until Fall but once I tasted the buratta, I knew that it had to be made with a Bolognese. I was right and doubt you’ll be disappointed. Have a great week!

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  6. Bonjouno John.. Delizioso! For just a moment while reading your lovely post, you brought back the memories of last October when I met up with Carla and Gabriella in Bologna and cooked a lovely meal of homemade tagliatelle alla Bolognese. I think you are right that each family has their own additions and methods. However, your addition of the Italian sausage makes your recipe a very unique family heirloom. Thanks so much for sharing. I also think it is a great idea to put those veggies in a food processor, after all, I am a “cutter”. However one theme that seems to be the same in every family recipe is that is is slow stirred and made with lots of love and care.
    Now what is that in the coming attractions? Whoa… I can’t wait to read about it. Have a super week. Chow, BAM

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    • Buona Sera, BAM! I’m relieved you like the recipe. I wasn’t sure if it would pass your inspection, being you’re now a Bologna-trained chef. Whew!
      For years, BAM, no one made our sausage. Once I learned how, I treated it like gold and didn’t want to cook it. Now, though, I can make a batch of sausage in about 2 hours, so, I make it all of the time. Being I make 6 oz. patties instead of links means it is readily accessible in pre-measured amounts. I use it in plenty of dishes and it really works well here. And the burrata? Mmmm 🙂
      Wishing you a great week, too.

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    • Thanks, Marie, and you can put whatever you like in the sauce. Really. I just about always put mushrooms in my “other” meat sauce and usually keep this one mushroom-free — the key word being “usually” because I, too, love my ‘shrooms.

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  7. Another wonderful recipe, John? You are going to make me fat!! Obviously I will try your way, it looks fantastic.
    I haven’t try yet your calamari, so there. Another pound straight to my hips…
    Thanks for sharing 😉

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    • Thank you, Giovanna. I hope you do try both recipes. The calamari could not be easier and this sugo is a wonderful way to dress pasta. Don’t worry about any weight gain. Your kids keep you busy enough that you’re burning calories and you don’t even know it. 🙂

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  8. Thanks for the lesson about Italian cuisine, I am learning a great deal through your writing and family table. In your notes, you mention one should know thy sausage. What should I look for, or perhaps better, what should I avoid? Adding this recipe to my to-make list (which is getting longer).

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    • You’re so kind, Norma, thank you. Do you have a favorite sausage, italian or otherwise? If you do, does it contain any strong flavors that you think would be good — or maybe bad — in your sauce? If you have no favorites, buy a link or 2 from your butcher or the meat counter at your grocery, bring them home, fry them, and taste. Better to taste before than after it is in the sauce and possibly ruined it. For me, although I don’t mind fennel seed in my sausage, I do not want it in my sauce. So, I taste the sausage before adding any of it to my pot of sauce. Hope this helps and I’m here if you need. 🙂

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      • My favorite sausage is Chinese sausage but I don’t think it would work in an Italian sauce. I don’t care much for fennel so I probably get a sausage without fennel. Definitely no chicken liver.
        How long can I keep grated parmesan from the cheese shop? How can I tell if it has gone bad?

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        • I’m with you about the fennel and chicken livers, Norma. If you can, fry a sausage first to see if you like it and that will help you decide whether that is the one to use in your Bolognese.
          They suggest storing grated cheese in a plastic bag with as little air as possible left in the bag. Even then, grated parmesan cheese should be used within a couple days of it being grated. A wedge of cheese should be wrapped in wax paper or aluminum foil, placed in a vegetable crisper, and used within a week or two. Should mold develop, simply cut it off and throw it away. The rest of the wedge will be fine. Those are the official guidelines. I have kept wedges longer than 2 weeks and stored grated for longer than a couple days. Whether in wedge or grated form, the flavor of Parmesan cheese will degrade over time. Refrigerators all differ. Keep tasting your cheese to see how long it will take for the flavors to degrade beyond your preference. Use that number of days/weeks as your guideline. I hope this is what you were looking for. Let me know if I can be of further help.

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          • Thanks John. One more dumb question, will the degraded cheese make a person sick? How come the grated parm in the green box on the grocery shelf is not refrigerated and seems to have a very long shelf live? Oops, this is a second question.

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          • I would never eat grated cheese that has any sign of mold. If mold is on a block of parmesan or romano, I would trim it off and grate the other part of the block. I don’t know if the mold can make you sick. I think part of the readon the canned cheese has a long shelf life is that it is sealed in an air-tight container. Once that seal is broken, the cheese’s flavor will begin to fade and deteriorate. I can’t tell how long that will take, Norma, because I’ve not used that form of cheese in some time. I wish I cold be more specific for you and hope you found this helpful. Feel free to ask more questions if you have them. 🙂

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    • Thank you, Chef. I have been served Bolognese made with chicken livers but have never made it myself. WIth this sugo, I just don;t find it necessary but, who knows? This is a work in progress, if ever there is one. I may change my mind and start using liver in my next batch. 🙂

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  9. We also called it “sugo”, only it was nothing in the Bolognese style. My dad made either a simple Sugo Napolitano, simple tomato sauce, or he would add pieces of meat into his sauce such as meatballs, beef short-ribs, sausages… I really only make a Bolognese for a Lasagne alla Bolognese. I really should make a meat sauce more often as everyone loves it. Love that you also add sausage to yours. Must try that next time. Thanks John!

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    • You’re very welcome, Lidia. Each adult in my extended family made sugo and even though the pantries were almost identical, each person’s tasted different from all others. A variety of meats could be used, from hamburger to chops and/or ribs. Today’s Bolognese is one that I started making about a dozen years ago, having watched a number of chefs rave about it on TV. It has evolved into what it is today. A few years ago I added the pancetta. The sausage was added about 2 years ago. That was about the time I stopped from using heavy cream and began using half and half instead. If you do make this, Lidia, I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. 🙂

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  10. Bolognese is truly a favorite around our table. So much so, when our daughter’s friend came over for dinner one night, the friend looked at the pot and said “oh, spaghetti sauce”. My daughter turned to her and said, “No, that is no spaghetti sauce you’ve ever tried, THAT is Bolognese!” It made me laugh because evidently it was food that had become personal to her, which also made me smile. I suppose that is the way it is from region to region, town to town, family to family — it is personal — and I love the personal touch on recipe you have shared here. 🙂

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    • Thank you so much, Judy. You’re so right! Knowing that the dish you’re preparing was once served to your Grandmother who then served it to Mom, adds a dimension to the dish that no recipe in a book can match.
      And thanks for sharing the anecdote involving your daughter. This girl knows her stuff! Good for her!

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  11. My version has always been much heavier on the tomato, so I’m going to have to give this a try. You’ve got me really intrigued. You know, I never thought about Italian cooking as essentially an oral tradition, but in retrospect it seems so obvious, particularly given how much regional food grows out necessity, and the people in necessity are often the ones with the least power or formal education. Isn’t it funny how when people traditionally think of French cuisine there’s an association with formality and expense and high-end restaurant culture, whereas the near opposite is true of Italian food–the associations are often familial, often relaxed, and often with casual dining. Of course I’m generalizing, but still… Great post. Ken

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    • Thanks, Ken. I posted my “other” sauce with meat a number of weeks ago and that is my all purpose sugo. I prepare Bolognese for special occasions and special dishes, like next week’s buratta. I definitely think the oral tradition is a big factor in shaping today’s Italian cuisine. Mom’s generation was the first, in my family, to record recipes. She and Zia wrote down many of them and gave us kids recipe books. I’ve spent time going back and, with Zia’s help, have dug up more from back in the day. Still, not a one of this latter group has a written recipe to draw upon. And even though they were taught the same dishes at the same time, there were differences in the way they prepared them. Imagine the variances across the peninsula.

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      • Pretty remarkable. My late father-in-law was a maritime historian and he got me interested in the novels of Patrick O’Brien, the Irish writer who was scrupulously faithful to historical truth when it came to technical issues of seafaring. In order to be able to follow the action in the books I bought several volumes on the handling of square-rigged sailing ships from the Naval Institute Press in Annapolis. What I soon discovered was that they–and many others–were based on a single Swedish nautical archive. Most 18th c. ordinary seamen were illiterate, so knowledge was passed down by word of mouth, from one forejack hand to another. As innovations in rigging arose, what went before was forgotten, as older sailors died, unless, as was the case in Sweden, someone took the trouble to record it. Remarkable and amazing. Ken

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  12. We went to that region as part of our honeymoon. Loved it. Amazing food. And love burrata. There was a place in Rome that would serve it a bit deconstructed but it was over the top delicious. I will be trying to make some when I have time.

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    • I’ve been fortunate to visit Italy a few times and have eaten my way across the town, province, or island every time. I didn’t learn about buratta, though, until back here. Next time I go there, I’m surely going to find buratta on a menu.
      With children in the family, time is a precious commodity. If and when you get some time, I hope you’ll make, and your family enjoys, this sugo.

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  13. WOW! Great recipe, I was jumping up and down with joy when I saw the title of your post in my email…. I never used tomato paste, but can see how it would make it special and less watery, more intensely flavored.

    I wish I had the opportunity to make pappardelle from scratch, maybe in a few weeks I might be able to do it, because a sugo like this need royalty to go with it….

    awesome post, John!

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    • Thanks, Sally, and I’m glad you like today’s post. i do not make my Bolognese very often and, when I do, it’s special. For this post, it was homemade pappardelle and I bet you can find it, freshly made, at a good Italian market. Next week, I’ll use the Bolognese with burrata, and make one spectacular dish of pasta. You’ll see … 🙂

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  14. I totally agree with you about food and recipes being a work in progress. The dishes are never the same and over time you find something that works better.
    If Italian food is the food of grandmas then Indian food is definitely the food of the chefs of the grand palaces. Of course there are family recipes but my father will always talk about the food of the big time cooks of royals and big families of India. That’s where the the most decadent dishes were made and became tradition.
    I have made a bolognese sauce before but I have to admit my recipe was very different! This is not an everyday pasta sauce for you is it? It’s very rich! Looks absolutely lovely though and your pasta…omg…beautiful.

    Nazneen

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    • I find the cooking traditions of each country to be so interesting, Nazneen. I would love to hear you Father describe those royal feasts. They must have been something to witness and how lucky for you to have your own “reporter” to tell you about them. 🙂
      Thanks you for your compliments, Nazneen, and you’re right. This is not my “everyday” sauce. I make my Bolognese for special occasions and dinners. It helps to make the occasion even more special.

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  15. I am learning so much about Italian food everyday. It looks a lot like the way it goes in India- grandma’s recipes handed down from generation to generation with no written account anywhere and taste varying immensely from one area to another. Sauces is ‘ragu’ in Italian……I had heard that term do many times but never could figure out what it was exactly. In India we have a word called Ragi which is s grain. I confused Ragu with that. I love that your family has its own term for it. Lovely post.

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    • Thank you , Minnie. One of the peculiarities of the Italian language is that it has a relatively small lexicon because it is an old language, descended from an even older language (Latin) with even fewer words. The result is that some words have more than one meaning. “Ragu” means “sauce” and, in some areas, means “meat sauce”, too. “Sugo” also means “sauce” but it can also mean “gravy.” Much depends on the art of Italy that you’re from and your family’s tradition. I’d no idea, though, that India had a similar word, “Ragi.” I learn something new in these comments every day. 🙂

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  16. John – I am so excited. You know I’ve been waiting for your Bolognese recipe!!! Thank you so much for posting.

    Years ago, my first visit to Italy, my sister and I stumbled on an obscure trattoria in the E-R region, and it was perhaps the best Italian meal I ever had – pasta Bolognese and pumpkin ravioli. Ever since, we have diligently tried to reproduce both dishes. We’ve come really close on the ravioli but I’ve always thought my Bolognese was missing something.

    Looking at your recipe, I do not use the sausage or veal or the stock. But this will be my next Bolognese. Can’t wait 🙂

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    • You’ve just described what keeps me returning to Italy. Those little, out-of-the-way places, with Mamma in the kitchen, and the Son serving you a fantastic dinner. It’s not so uncommon, if you leave the tourist areas behind. GIve me a bottle of the house red and some local cheese & fruit for dessert and I am one very happy camper!
      With so relatively few herbs, spices, and tomatoes used here, the emphasis in this sugo is on the meat. You’ll be surprised at how much the sausage and pancetta affects this sugo’s taste. So, remember: Know thy sausage!
      I hope you find this sugo as enjoyable as we have.

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  17. A good Bolognese sauce can be excellent, and yours looks spectacular. Curiously, although I like this dish a lot, it’s one I almost never make – I guess I’m more of a fan of more tomato than meat, so I make an ordinary meat sauce (it doesn’t taste ordinary, but you know what I mean!). And I much prefer a wider pasta shape than spaghetti – I think spaghetti works best in a sauce that’s largely olive oil or butter. Anyway, truly nice, and you’ve reminded me it’s been too long since I’ve made this. Oh, and great tip about using the food processor to mince the veggies – I do this in some recipes, but not in sugos, and I don’t know why I don’t. Great post and recipe – thanks.

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    • Hello, John, and thank you for your great comments.
      As you know, I posted a sauce with meat a number of weeks ago and that is my “everyday” sauce. I prepare a Bolognese for special occasions and dinners. With its heavy emphasis on the meats, it’s a different animal and I like its flavors.
      At one time, I was almost ashamed to admit I used a food processor to do my chopping, like I was a failure. Well, that all changed a number of years ago when I saw Lidia Bastianich use a processor to chop her vegetables that she used in a sauce. That was all the vindication I needed and now I proclaim to the world that I use a food processor! 🙂

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  18. Hi John
    Emilia Romagna is such a foodie place! We visited a few years back (and stayed in a 12th century tower). We visited a balsamic vinegar place (where I bought a 25 year old bottle that I am yet to open), a Parma ham factory and a Parmigiano Reggiano factory. It was one of my best holidays ever. BTW your sauce sounds fab.

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    • Sounds like you took my dream vacation, Glenda. How wonderful! I’ve never been to Emilia Romagna, other than to travel through it. I will definitely get there. though. It is the Italian Mecca for foodies and I must make the pilgrimage.

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  19. I laughed at the comment about “the cooking of nonnas” which is so true. My husband’s mother and her 4 sisters all had slightly different sauces yet they all claimed they made them exactly as their mother had. I too like more meat, less tomato and will have to try the tomato paste next time.
    I keep forgetting to mention that I’ve been using your basic pasta dough recipe & LOVE it. It uses more egg than the one that I had been using which makes a huge difference in the pasta.

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    • Every adult in the old two-flat made a sauce, all used the same pantry items, each sauce was different. I still cannot figure that one out but I’m certain that if it were possible to have all of those sauces lined up before me, I could taste them and tell you who made which one.
      I’m so glad you tried and like Mom’s pasta dough recipe. I’ve experimented with others and each time I wished I’d followed Mom’s. I should have known better. Moms always know best. 🙂

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  20. Great recipe and thanks for sharing it! It’s very similar to the one I use to make sugo, too 🙂
    But in Bologna we actually call the “sugo alla Bolognese” simply “ragù”. Absolutely love the food of the Emilia Romagna!

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    • Thank you for commenting. Yes, I’m aware that the Bolognese refer to this as “ragù”, in much the same way that what we here call “Indian food” is just “food” back in India. 🙂 (Sorry, it’s an old joke.)
      I only mentioned the matter to head off those who would “correct” my use of the word “sugo”. My family used “sugo” and I want to pass that along to future Bartolini who may reference these recipes.
      I hope one day you’ll post your recipe. I would love to try it. 🙂

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  21. I really enjoy the introduction of history into the background of your recipes, John. I don’t think there is much room for disagreement anywhere that Italy is profoundly identified for the art of cuisine, almost in the same breath as we acknowledge enormous wealth in art, literature and architecture. Just the photos of this dish make me hungry! The addition of pancetta really surprised me. That’s a rich addition into an already rich meat sauce–I’ll never be tempted to add the chicken livers!

    And yes indeed to the Pappardelle. What a beautiful combination. Does this sauce hold up to freezing? I would love to have some “on hand” for unanticipated dinner company–a regular occurrence in my house! This really is a “company” dinner–a crowd pleaser!

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    • Thank you so much, Debra. Much of the history I relate comes from watching so many Italian chefs/cooks on television over the years. Biba Caggiano, Lidia Bastianich, Mary Ann Esposito, and Mario Batali just don’t give recipes but they often pass the dish’s provenance, when available. I find it most fascinating when things they have said are borne out in my family. Chef Batali was speaking directly about my family when he said that Italian cooking is the “cooking of Nonnas”. There were no cookbooks for my Nonnas and Bisnonnas (Great Grandmothers). Mom & Zia learned how to cook at a young age and they were the first to actually write down a recipe. The only exceptions were the recipes for baked goods. Mom’s biscotti recipe, for example, came from family friends and is well over 100 years old.
      In this sugo, with so few spices and herbs, the meats are responsible for much of the flavor. The pancetta and sausage bring a lot to the pot. The result is a very thick, rich tasting sauce that really clings to broad pastas, like pappardelle or tagliatelle. I’ve 2 containers of my Bolognese in the freezer right now, Debra. I won’t leave them in there for 6 months but they’ll be fine for a while. I don’t know for how long because they get used pretty quickly. 🙂

      Like

  22. Oh yes, yes! We call it sugo too in our family 🙂 It’s very, very similar to the way I make it with a mix of meats although I have never used milk so am curious and can imagine this really adds a boost to the sauce and the flavour…will be trying your version just so that I can compare. This was always a real treat for us to have this sauce. Usually it was my godmother who made it for big family get togethers and she also made a similar but chunkier version with larger pieces of meat for serving over polenta. Come to think of it, that was the one we called ragu. Happy memories 🙂 Love too that you serve it authentically with the pasta not drowning in sauce. Anyway, leftover sauce is for dunking your bread in for a midnight snack…right?!

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    • Ciao, Tanya! I’m glad that you liked the post and it brought to mind some warm memories. At first, I used heavy cream at the end of the simmer. I didn’t really care for it, finding that the butterfat masked some flavors. Adding whole milk, or half-and-half, early on doesn’t seem to do that. Yes, I know that big pot of sauce with all of the meats in it that your Godmother prepared. We’d have ribs, chops, sausages, chunks of beef, you name it, in the sauce. Once they were cooked, they were put on a big platter while the sauce was mixed with the pasta. Add a couple contorni and dinner was served! What a feast — and it was only a Sunday!
      I will agree that this sugo is fantastic on a chunk of bread late at night. What I will not say is how many chunks of bread found there way into that pot of sauce late at night. 🙂

      Like

  23. Pingback: Sauce in the Style of Bologna | Italian Food &a...

  24. On this very dreary day my friend, I just know that THIS wonderful recipe would be on the top of JTs list without-a-doubt! The noodles to sauce ratio looks perfect (I particularly love the thickness of these noodles) — THIS would be the definition of comfort food in the dictionary (heck, WIKI for that matter). You know me and my slight hesitation towards noodles, but I would definitely slather your gorgeous sauce over my greens (and I’ll sneak a forkful or two from JTs). I would have to agree though, let’s leave the chicken livers to the paté, I’m afraid the dry-flavour (not sure how else to describe it) would not help the rich flavours and textures of the meat you have chosen (and I’m absolutely loving the sausage addition). I’m sure this sauce is a complex symphony perfect for such a rain (and perhaps snowy) day here in the big smoke.
    Now you’re just being a tease with that Burrata photo…I may have to change our dinner reservations to a restaurant that has Burrata on the menu on Friday, you’ve got my food brain stuck on it. The photo looks like it might be your beautiful handy work.

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    • You are so kind, Eva. Thank you. I don’t make this sauce often but I do enjoy it when I do. Next week’s burrata recipe called for the very best sugo and I was very happy to oblige. The use of sausage and pancetta here are the key. Both add such great flavors to the sauce, especially given that so few tomatoes, spices, and herbs are used. Here it’s all about the meat. Warn the vegetarians!
      With other tomato sauces, shaped pastas are recommended so the sauce has something to adhere to. This sugo, being so thick and rich, can be served with pappardelle or tagliatelle without any fear. I do hope you try it and you both enjoy it. And that burrata dish is truly something else. Decadent comes to mind. 🙂

      Like

      • Now you have ME craving this sauce! And although I’m no vegetarian, I do favour vegetables over meat. But it’s that rich combo of meat flavours you’ve put together that makes me want a taste (or ten). I can almost smell the aroma.
        Now add that to Burrata? What are you doing, John? I can’t wait! And HOME MADE BURRATA? Really? You know you’re killing me, right? 😉

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        • Hold on, Eva! No, I do not make my own burrata. I did check into it, though. As you know, making mozzarella is hard enough. Burrata is that degree of difficulty squared. I just added a video to next week’s post of a man in Puglia making burrata. It is no walk in the park — but it sure looks delicious! Knowing how good freshly made mozzarella tastes, I can only imagine how good this would be. Even so, I’m still not going to try. 🙂

          Like

  25. Wonderful as always John. The variety of meats promises a deep complex flavor. Perfect for today in the Windy City, though far be it from me to complain about rain. Were you not concerned about staining that beautiful napkin?

    And the Burrata! Now that is a labor of love! Magnificent.

    Like

    • You’re exactly right, Dave. The mix of meats creates a deeply flavored sugo. It is not like any other tomato sauce. After last year’s drought, we should be happy for the rain and I am — just wish it was a bit warmer, though. There’s nothing nice about this current weather pattern.
      I wasn’t worried about the napkin. I was having problems with my camera that day and the “photo shoot” took forever. The fried calamari was not at all “fresh” and any residual grease was gone. 🙂

      Like

  26. I love the detail and history in the post, John. We take food for granted sometimes and never stop to think the origin. There’s quite a bit of meat in this sauce! I like the idea of processing all the veggies too, my kids would thank you for that, as they don’t like to see chunks of carrots either!

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    • Thanks, Tanya. The history of food fascinates me and I like to share what I’ve learned. Your kids have a new friend. I really cannot say why I object to to seeing carrots in my sauce. I love carrots and enjoy them in just about any way they can be prepared. I just don’t like seeing them in my sugo!

      Like

  27. Now that is a delicious looking bolognese. I bet all those different meats really develop an amazing depth and flavor not to mention aroma while torturing you for the 2-3 hours it takes to cook! You know, it totally makes sense to me that Italian cuisine is the “cooking of Nonnas” cuz any food that relies on fresh local foods would change from region to region and household to household, just like Asian cooking. I’ve found another Italian-Asian connection! 😉 Can’t wait to start experimenting with my pasta maker to try all these great recipes. Thanks for sharing.

    Like

    • I’m glad you liked the post and recipe, Cam. I’m sure there’s more to connect Italy and Asia than Marco Polo. 🙂 This sauce is all about the meat and it is very good because of it.
      I’m probably just as eager to read of your pasta machine exploits as you are to get started. I included that photo of the hand-cut pappardelle just for you, as a reminder that if the cutters give you a hard time, you can just as easily cut the dough by hand. I’ve got your back! 🙂

      Like

  28. Yes, so much more than just a recipe. Mmmmmmm- Lovely sauce and the photo of the pappardelle, plated with the sauce? Wonderful. \
    And I know just where to get the best sausage. La Groceria Italiana in Pittsburgh
    When I make this, I will take a photo of my effort and we’ll see how it looks.
    John, some day I will have to share the pics I took in Eataly on Fifth Ave in NYC. You may have something similar in Chicago.

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    • You’re always so encouraging, Ruth. Thank you. This is a great sauce to make and one that is really quite easy. The payoff is one rich sauce and dish of pasta. There’s a reason why Sugo alla Bolognese is considered to be the best.
      I’d be very happy to see your pics of Eataly, NYC. I’ve heard that Mario Batali and Eataly’s management team are coming to Chicago to open an even bigger store here. I am so going to be there, and frequently!
      Just what I need. Another place to shop for Italian goodies. 🙂

      Like

  29. Lately I find myself reading your post when I am hungry. It’s happened again and I could eat this dish right off my screen. When it looks good it is usually good and from past experience, I know if made and recommended by you it is GOOD. Thanks for sharing.

    BE ENCOURAGED! BE BLESSED!

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  30. The devil is in the detail, as they say… I make similar, what I call a “meat sauce” but your Sugo alla Bolognese recipe with its pork sausage and milk additions would make it meat sauce royalty! As you say, if you have a recipe you love, you cook it again and again and it evolves… to the point I rarely make anything exactly the same way even if the difference is just a nuance. I also use the food processer, as I’m not an expert dicer and chunks of carrot in fine stuff looks untidy and is off putting when you eat. Oh, once again you shine 🙂

    Like

    • Thank yiu, EllaDee. Sounds like we share much of the same philosophy when cooking. In fact, some of the hardest things I’ve had to do is to write some of these recipes. Some have never been measured before so writing the ingredient list is a bit of a challenge. Thank heavens I’ve Zia and a group of tasters to help. Although I’m a big fan of texture in my dishes. chunks of carrots in a sauce is a big no-no. I just don’t like the sight of ’em. Have a great weekend!

      Like

  31. I love that you are encouraging us to “make this our own” John. And, you’ve given us all the tools to do so with this informative post (as usual). I didn’t realize that bolognese was meat with a little tomato added in rather than the other way around. Of course, you’ve made this a very attractive approach with all of the different types of meat you’ve included, such as pancetta AND sausage in addition to three types of ground meat. I can’t wait to top some tagliatelle with this sauce. Must. Make. This. Soon.

    Like

    • That’s the thing about Italian cooking, Barb. There is no one way to prepare something or one way to cut an herb or one way to do whatever. There are basic guidelines to follow but the rest is up to you. That’s what our Nonnas did.
      When you do make it, you’re in for a real treat! It is a hearty sauce and very flavorful. It’s not like the other sauces you’ve tried. You’ll see … 🙂

      Like

  32. You always get me so drawn in with your coming soon picture that I practically forget where my train of thought was pertaining to the post. I mean how could I ignore that burrata? I recently ordered some at a restaurant downtown and was not disappointed. I just love that cheese. Still…the best I’ve had was in Michigan. I would make the trip just for that again! Okay, now back to my train of thought for the sauce. This does look delicious. I usually don’t order (or make) anything with the bologna sauce, but your recipe does sound pretty darn good. And I love that you just chop everything in the food processor. I’m all for easy peasy! (lemon squeezy as Mr. N would add to that) And I can totally relate to your recipe being different 2 years from now. As you know I LOVE to make sauce – red sauce, cream sauce, white, red, etc. I used to search recipes, now I just wing it. They are never the same. They’ll hold their main ingredients, but the details always change. Now that I think about it, I should add a bologna to my repertoire. 🙂

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    • Burrata is one fantastic cheese, isn’t it? I tink you’ll like this weeks’s recipe. It’s easy to make and oh, so, very good!
      All of my sauces are in a constant state of flux. It’s really unusual for me to write them down for the blog. Suddenly I have to actually think of what I’m doing and measure how much of everything is going into the pot. How odd! I’m afraid that this may not be the sugo for you, Kristy. If I’m not mistaken, you don’t eat a lot of red meat. I think the men of your house, though, would be very happy with it. This is a meat-lover’s sauce, no doubt about it. 🙂

      Like

      • You’re right…I’m not a big red meat eater and the boys would not doubt love this. Miss A too – she always surprises me with how much she loves meat dishes. I’m willing to be the odd man out for a change. 😉

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  33. You are totally right about every family having a different recipe. In mine, my mom makes it her own way and my dad makes it his own way: I have never proclaimed a winner and I’ll keep it this way for my own good. 😉 The only thing they seem to agree upon is the kind of pasta: pappardelle are the best. Great picture, John!

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  34. My mouth is watering. I have always been a fan of Marcella’s from many moons ago. Up until now I have used her bolognese or sugo, as you say, as a model. But I love your combo of meats and veggies and can’t wait to give it a try. And that papparadelle? OMG! I need to find a real Italian deli that isn’t far away! I also just love saying that. It makes me feel so Italian!

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    • Thank you, Abbe. I really do hope you give this recipe a try and, when you do, you have a supply of freshly made pappardelle or tagliatelle on hand. The combo is a winner, if ever there was one. Then you won’t just sounds like an Italian, you’ll be eating like one. Frankly, I’d rather be the latter. 🙂

      Like

  35. That pasta looks so good and beyond restaurant quality. How very authentic! I love the combination of all the meats and disguising vegetables by whizzing them in the food processor is a great trick – that’s how all my children learned to eat their vegetables xx

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    • Thanks, Charlie. You really cannot tell there are any veggies in this sugo. They blend right in with the minced meats. Besides, isn’t Arabella a vegetarian? You obviously did something right. 🙂

      Like

  36. I love coming here and learning about Italian cuisine.. even more so with a trip to Italy in the works. We won’t be in the far northern regions like the Emilia-Romagna region, but I’m sure we will find some sugo to sample! But.. before I go I will be making this. Having a meat-loving teenager with a massive appetite, it’s a no-brainer for me to get making this. You never know.. maybe I’ll brave my attachment and make that pasta I’ve been wanting to try! xx

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    • Thanks, barb, and I’m so happy that you’ll be heading to Italy. I know you’ll have a fantastic time! Yes, I remember your Son from the short rib recipe. (I just made them for dinner tonight, by the way.) The meat lovers in your family will surely love this sugo. As for the pasta, whether you make or buy it, freshly made is definitely preferable. This is no everyday sauce. You’ll see. 😉

      Like

  37. Looks delicious! I didn’t know bolognese was meat with a little tomato added in rather than the other way around. Will have to keep that in mind the next time I make this. Can’t wait for your Burrata post. YUM!

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  38. Ah John, it’s always so great reading your entries, tons a great info, lot’s of context and to sum it all up, a great recipe. Italians did invent yumminess 🙂 Love this italian sauce over any other. I do have a question. I add milk at the end just to finish it up, do you ever have problems with the milk curdling if you boil it down? Maybe I’m not using a fatty enough milk although it says whole milk on the jug. Specially if you’re using white wine, I fear the milk might curdle. Let me know if you don’t mind me asking, and thanks again for your awesome post!

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    • Thanks, Paul, and I never mind any questions.
      I used to add heavy cream late in the cooking but didn’t like how it masked some of the sauce’s flavors. Now I add milk or half-and-half early on and haven’t had a problem with the dairy curdling. Never really gave it much thought. I add it, it boils away rather quickly, and then I add the wine. I hope this helps. I’m here if you need more info. 🙂

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    • Exactly, Marianne. I laugh when writing some of these recipes because it is the first time I’ve written them down. I actually have to think of what I’m adding and how much. Imagine that! 🙂

      Like

  39. John, this is fantastic! I love Bolognese and it is unfortunate that in the US one is really hard pressed to find restaurants that do it right – or even decently. Your recipe finally does Sugo alla Bolognese justice! And calling it “a meat sauce with tomato” is just the perfect way to describe it! Another winner in your impressive recipe collection. Thank you for sharing.

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    • Thank you, Stefano, for your kind words. I feel honored by them.
      I so rarely order pasta with a tomato sauce of any kind in restaurants now. I just don’t find them appetizing at all. Mom spoiled me. What can I say? On the other hand, when I’m in Italy, I’ll order it daily. I may be spoiled but I’m no fool. 🙂

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    • Welcome, Karollyn! I’m glad you enjoyed the post and if you do follow my recipe, I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.
      Thanks for the visit and for taking the time to comment.

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  40. A recipe that is a work in progress and constantly changes and develops over time is a pleasure John, and thanks too for he great history of the dish! Now pass that plate !! ok, please pass the plate?….

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  41. Hi my friend! One thing that always rings so true in your posts John is the continuous gift it is to be part of a Family…and in your case, to be part of a family with such an appreciation and respect for the good food of one’s heritage, that’s a Blessing! All that being true, it’s still a wonderful thing when we, over the course of time, make a recipe our own. contained in this, both continuity and evolution … the very things of Life. (ps I love the instruction: Roll, Cut, & Unfurl Pappardelle and I can barely wait to do it. I think a pasta attachment for my mixer and my next birthday are about to collide!) 🙂

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    • That’s such a nice thing to say, Spree. Thank you. Beginning the blog is the real blessing. These recipes have triggered so many memories for me, Zia, and the rest of the family. Even friends from back then visit occasionally to chime in. I knew life in the two-flat was special. Now I understand just how special it was.
      I include those pasta making shots just to show that making hand cut pasta is easy as 1-2-3. It really is. You’ll see. If you can make ravioli, you can surely make pappardelle. 🙂

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  42. This recipe makes perfect sense to me, in fact i make something like this but from now on i shall also puree the vegetables and the addition of milk! excellent, then the cooking down between .. i look forward to eating this out of a bowl with a spoon! very well described John.. I learnt a lot today that i will use .. c

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    • That’s great, Celi. Once you get the everything into the pot, the key is to simmer it low and slow. Let the flavors develop — and if you can wait until the next day to serve it, so much the better. And speaking from experience, pappardelle made with fresh eggs is the best! 😉

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    • You’ll just need to send you daughter to a sleep-over so that you can enjoy this pasta, Kathleen! 🙂
      Yes, this is the same burrata that I used in a recipe a short while ago. This time, it is used with this Bolognese. Stay tuned …

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  43. So interesting to learn about the origins of the Sugo alla Bolognese recipe. I have often wondered how close my own recipe is to the original…of course as you mentioned, every cook has their own version and so there is an “artist’s liberty” allowed. 🙂 My version has not been nearly as full of meat. Thank you for the insight!

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    • You’re very welcome. Most sauces with meat have less meat that this Bolognese. My other meat sauces don’t come near having this much meat. It’s the meat that sets this sauce apart.

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  44. Well, I clicked on your post Wednesday a.m., then my office phone rang, and somehow here it is Friday! This looks like the ultimate Bolognese, John. And the tip about using the food processer is brilliant, it makes so much sense and what a time saver. Bolognese is my husband’s favorite sauce, and the recipes I’ve used in the past have left a little (a lot, actually) to be desired. But yours I know will knock his socks off! I’m pinning it to make when I return from a short trip over the next few days. We have some great sausage close by and I can’t wait to try this! The Burrata photo is truly a tease as I can just imagine that big ball melting over the plate of pasta, yum! Have a great weekend, John, and thanks for continuing to inform and inspire us. 🙂

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    • Thank you, Betsy, for leaving such a nice comment and compliment. If you have a good sausage than you’ll love this sugo. Because there are so few spices and herbs used, the sausage and the pancetta really do bring a lot of flavor to the party. It really transformed my sauce the first time I added both. I hope you and your DH both enjoy the sauce as much as me and my army of tasters do. 🙂
      Hope you have a great trip, Betsy, and wonderful weekend!

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      • Well, I finally made this sauce late yesterday and into the night :), thinking of you and Zia the whole time, and all I can say is that I finally GET it why you’d want to make your own pasta to go with something as magnificent as this is! Definitely the best Bolognese sauce I’ve ever tasted and my husband agrees…in fact I don’t think anything I’ve tasted before this should have been called Bolognese. Wow…it didn’t disappoint, and it was hard not to just eat it out of the pot when it was done! And the tip about the food processor was great. Now I need to get some burrata, and also find some time to start experiment with pasta making….next it will be cheese…oh, no, look what you’ve started! 🙂

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        • This is great, Betsy! I’m so glad you tried and enjoyed this recipe for Bolognese. When I read that yo started it “late yesterday” I thought it might keep you up. It does take a while to get it all into the pot — and then you’ve still got a couple of hours to go! I don’t think you can beat the reward, though, when it’s all done. And you’re right. I only serve homemade pasta with this sugo. You will be, too, soon enough. 🙂 Wait until you make your lasagna with homemade pasta sheets. You will not believe how much better it is. You’ll be making cheese within a week. 🙂
          Thank you for taking the time to come back here and tell me of your experience. I hope you enjoy the rest of your weekend.

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  45. I love the sauce discussion! In our home, Bolognese was definitely tomato-meat sauce. Ragu was meat with a touch of tomato and milk (and … nutmeg). In fact your Bolognese is almost identical to our Ragu! And in Minnesota, you are reminding me that it is still tasty sauce season!

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    • It is something, isn’t it? With there being so many differences from one locale to another in Italy, there are sure to be differences here, as generations are born without any first-hand knowledge of the Old Country. For me, call it gravy, ragù, sugo, or whatever. All that matters is the taste. 🙂

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  46. John, this is similar to how we used to make our sauce – with milk and white wine, although we do use tinned tomatoes rather than paste. These days the milk is gone, and has been replaced with butter. What an interesting read – I love see the history and tradition behind a recipe! Thank you! 🙂 PS. Sorry I haven’t popped in – WP changed all my email notification settings on me, and I wasn’t getting any! All sorted now..

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    • Sorry you’re having WP problems, Celia. You’re not alone. I’ve had some, too, as have a few others. I’m glad you enjoyed the recipe and post and that I did nothing upsetting. I’d hate to think of the Italian Nonnas Down Under in a stew over my Bolognese. 🙂

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  47. Now, that is a good idea about smashing the garlic, chopping the herbs and putting everything in the food processor. I will be using that trick – thanks!

    What a great recipe! I always try to make extra when I make sauces, so I can freeze it. This is one to add to my collection.

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  48. Wonderful post, John. I’m fascinated by the different variations — e.g. with and without liver, with nutmeg, with guanciale instead of pancetta (I happen to have my own home-cured guanciale), and, as always, your writing takes me into the kitchen with you. My personal revelation in Bologna was mortadella; better than the mortadella I have had anywhere else (even if I did find a pig’s eyelash in one slice). Another recipe bookmarked. 🙂

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    • Thanks, Susan, I’m glad you like the recipe and post. I bet that guanciale of yours is fantastic! One day I’m going to give it a try myself — but not for a while. I know what you mean about the mortadella. We all talk about the fantastic foods of Italy but there’s more to it than what’s served in the restaurants. The mortadella, prosciutto, any of the cheeses, the gelato. There’s just so much to enjoy. I had a 75 cent pizza Margherita served from a trattoria window on a street in Naples that remains, to this day, the best pizza I’ve ever had. It’s an amazing place.

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    • Hey, Lisa! I’m glad you found the post interesting and your secret is safe with me. I like your idea of add zucchini and I hope I remember it this Summer when I can get plenty of fresh zucchini. Yum!

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  49. What an absolutely fabulous bolognese! We love bolognese in this house so I’m always on the look out for the perfect recipe. This looks like a classic and one that I must try!

    Like

  50. Pingback: Burrata Returns and This Time It’s Packin’ Fusilli | from the Bartolini kitchens

  51. John, ever since I glimpsed this sauce on my phone a few weeks ago I’ve been thinking about it. Oh my, it looks so rich and delicious; I know a few carnivores in my life who would love its unbrldled meatiness (my servings of meat are usually on the slim side). I’ve taken quite a break from keyboarding in the past few weeks and am just catching up now. Looking forward to reading the rest of your posts that I missed.

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    • Welcome back, Mar. I hope this means that you’re wrist is doing better. It’s certainly understandable why you’ve been away like you have. You’ve been missed.
      A Bolognese is such a wonderful sauce to use. If you make this, I hope you and your carnivores enjoy it as much as we do. Again, Mar, good to see you. 🙂

      Like

  52. Pingback: Pizza Bolognese | bits and breadcrumbs

  53. Pingback: BRAISED LAMB SHANKS, BARTOLINI STYLE | Bewitching Kitchen

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