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I'm a guy who likes to cook, eat, and drink, but not necessarily in that order. This blog is nothing fancy; just my random thoughts about anything that can be baked, roasted, or fried. Enjoy!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Pasta Part 2

Lately, I’ve been training for a marathon to be held in late October. At this point in my training, the weekly long runs are getting longer and longer (today’s was 22 miles). That means a lot of what runners call “carb loading”—storing glycogen to fuel your body. And what’s the most popular—and tasty—method of carb loading? Pasta!

So, I decided to make what I call spaghetti bolognese. Bolognese sauce, which is known in Italian as ragù alla bolognese, is a meat-based sauce from Bologna, Italy. And like many old, traditional dishes, no two recipes are alike. (The first published recipe for ragù wasn't until 1891.)

In Bologna, ragù is served on a bed of tagliatelle pasta. Elsewhere, especially the United States, bolognese contains minced meat and tomatoes dominate much more than the original. (“Traditional” ragù contains no tomatoes, except for some tomato paste. ) Perhaps, in order to avoid all these technicalities, Americans whether of Italian extraction or not, simply call it “spaghetti with meat sauce” and call it a night. 

My recipe is slightly different from the “traditional” ragù and is more of a meld between what we call in the United States “spaghetti sauce” and what a nonna in Bologna would call ragù. I’ll start with the official version first.

On October 17, 1982, the Bolognese chapter of the Accademia Italiana della Cucina, "after having carried out long and laborious investigations and conducted studies and research,” decreed the following recipe to be the official one for classic ragù alla bolognese. 

Official Bolognese Sauce


1  5-oz. piece pancetta, finely chopped
2 ribs celery, finely chopped
1 small carrot, finely chopped
1/2 small yellow onion, finely chopped
3/4 lb. ground skirt steak
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 tbsp. Homemade Tomato Paste
1 1/2 cups milk
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tbsp. heavy cream
Homemade Tagliatelle (You can cheat and buy the stuff at the local Piggly Wiggly.)


1. Put the pancetta into a heavy-bottomed medium pot (preferably terra-cotta) over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until its fat has rendered, about 10 minutes.

2. Add the celery, carrots, and onions and cook, stirring frequently, until soft and lightly browned, about 15 minutes.

3. Add the skirt steak and cook, stirring occasionally, until broken up and lightly browned and beginning to sizzle, about 5 minutes. Add the wine to the pot; cook until evaporated, about 4 minutes. In a small bowl, stir together the tomato paste and 2 tbsp. water; add to the pot and stir well to combine. Reduce the heat to low and simmer the sauce, stirring occasionally and adding some of the milk, little by little, until all the milk is added and the sauce is very thick, about 1 1⁄2 hours.

4. Season the ragù with salt and pepper and stir in the cream. Toss with farfalle, fresh tagliatelle, or the pasta of your choice. Serve with grated parmigiano-reggiano.

The Insouciant Chef’s Bolognese Sauce


2 28 oz. can of San Marzano tomatoes
1 package of Johnsonville mild Italian sausage (5 links) with the casings removed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup of good olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 large carrot, finely diced
1 large green bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup red wine
2 garlic cloves minced
Oregano to taste
Salt & pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
2  teaspoons ground fennel
3-4 basil leaves finely chopped
In a large, heavy pot (preferably a Dutch oven), sauté the onion, green bell pepper, and carrots with salt and pepper on medium high heat until soft; add garlic and sauté for about a minute or until fragrant; reduce the temperature to low, cover, and sweat the vegetables for about 10-15 minutes. 
Add red wine, 1/4 cup olive oil, tomatoes (hand crushed and with liquid) and bring to a good simmer. Incorporate the oregano, red pepper, fennel, and basel.
In a separate sauté pan, brown the sausage and incorporate into the sauce; reduce to a low simmer for about 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. Taste periodically and add salt, pepper, etc., to suit your tastes.

Try them both out and see which one you like better, or make your own!

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