Updated: Mar 2
This recipe is for my ultimate big batch bolognese. Bolognese is essentially a Ragu - meats and vegetables slowly broken down into a rich, thick sauce. I've made this recipe with the intention of keeping it as traditional and authentic as possible, without offending any Italians in the process! If you'd like to learn about the potted history of Bolognese read on, otherwise please just scroll down to the recipe! Psst: there's also a recipe video at the bottom of the page!
The concept of Ragu is thought to originate in the Bologna region of Italy (Emilia-Romagna), where much loved regional products such as Vero de Modena (Balsamic Vinegar) and Parmigiano Reggiano (Parmesan) also come from. However, Bolognese is thought to originate from a town slightly west of Bologna where the first Ragu is documented. Bologna still loves the dish as their own however and when I visited you could order Pasta alla Bolognese or simply Ragu which was the bolognese we all know and love.
I'm in love with the shape of you:
The addition of spaghetti is something we English have added and is not true to the dish's origins. In fact the mayor of Bologna was outraged on a visit to London, seeing the dish and claimed it "bastardised their nation's dish" (source: The Economist - click for more history!)
Pasta comes in many varieties to best suit the sauce accompaniment. Spaghetti doesn't really hold sauce well, which is why you may have a little pool of water or liquid in the bottom of your bowl after eating Spaghetti Bolognese. The Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, which includes Bologna is know for making: Tagliatelle, which holds the sauce much better; Lasagne, which is layered with Ragu; Tortellini, which could be stuffed with Ragu; and, lastly, my favourite thing about visiting this amazing region - Bigoli, which is a very thick, noodle-like pasta made from buckwheat or wholewheat pasta. Bigoli seems very rough and ready but it is exactly the carby, sauce-sticking pasta you need when eating Bolognese!
Low & Slow:
Nothing good ever comes in a hurry, or so they say! This is not a technical dish, it's easy to follow, but you can't rush art! One of the reasons I loved visiting this region and had to rush back is for the simplicity of the food menus but how amazing they were. They were all made with love and care from fresh ingredients and recipes passed on through generations. There are no concentrated sauces in my recipe or jars of chopped tomatoes - it's all fresh ingredients which are slowly simmered, reduced and seasoned to get the maximum flavour out of them. Be patient, it's totally worth it, you'll never want to make Bolognese any other way ever again!
So without further ado, here's the recipe!!!!
Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 3-4 hrs
Special equipment needed:
Serve with pasta and Parmesan or use as a filling for lasagne or ravioli.
750g 5% Fat Beef Mince
250g Plum Tomatoes (diced)
250g Cherry Tomatoes (diced)
450g Mixed Tomatoes
½ Bottle of Red Wine
3 Celery Sticks (finely, diced)
250g Cherstnut Mushrooms (chopped)
2 Carrots (finely diced)
2 Large Red onions (sliced)
50ml Olive Oil
25g Sea salt
4tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
4 Garlic Cloves (crushed)
Up to 20g sugar (to taste)
Cracked Black Pepper (to taste)
Make sure all your chopping and prep is done before starting! Chop, slice, dice and crush everything. The mixed tomatoes should be blended smoothly in a food processor and the basil should be roughly chopped and set aside
Use the oil to sweat down the carrots, celery, onions and garlic in a large crockpot, adding a little salt as you do this
Meanwhile in a frying pan, fry off the mince in batches, adding a little of the salt to each batch and ensuring it is browned, pouring into a colander to strain away any fat
Use the same frying pan, and the residue fat from the mince to fry the mushrooms off with a little salt and set them aside
Once the carrot, celery and onion mix is nicely golden and softened, add the diced cherry and plum tomatoes and reduce these down
Once reduced you can add the mince, mushrooms, balsamic vinegar, a little more salt and wine to the pan and reduce this right down until there is barely any liquid left
Once reduced you can add the blended tomato mix and a little water to ensure everything is covered. This should now be slowly reduced for up to 2 hours until the sauce thickens, clinging to all the ingredients to hold them together and is a deeper brown in colour
Once the correct consistency is reached, taste and decide if you would like to add more salt, vinegar or sugar accordingly. This is when the basil should be stirred through and plenty of cracked black pepper added also
Bellissimo! Enjoy your bolognese!
I wanted to share with you all the calorie info on this dish. I realise it is a rich dish, and for maximum flavour, calorific items such as wine and salt have to be added. The information below is for one portion of the bolognese (pasta and Parmesan not included). For something THIS delicious this is a good set of values. Once you add your pasta and a sprinkle of Parmesan the dish still comes in at around 600 calories which is ideal. This is just to show anyone out there conscious of their eating habits that you can have something hearty, nutritious and delicious that you love. The info below is from following my recipe above and splitting it into 6 portions (which is about a big ladle and a half per person!)
Enjoy your bolognese & I urge you visit this wonderful region of Italy: Verona, Marostica, Ferrara, Badia, Bologna - they are all stunning and, remember, anyone can cook!