Everyone traveling to Bologna, in Emilia Romagna, is bound to eat ragù Bolognese, ricetta tradizionale and/or ricetta antica. Served with fresh tagliatelle, particularly spinach tagliatelle, it is the precursor to meat sauce as we know it, and still the main Sunday staple at a Bolognese Sunday meal. The ricetta antica, an old recipe, has milk added, while the sauce simmers, to give it additional richness and velvety texture. Today, it is mostly the tradizionale, without milk, that is cooked in Bologna. I prefer the antica, where the milk solids help break down the meat, allowing it to have a smoother, creamier texture and it is the one you will see in this post.
Garlic is not a typical ingredient, although both Mario Battali and Lidia Bastianich use it in their recipes. I only use one clove mashed to flavor the oil. The basil is definitely my idea and you can omit if you prefer. I had a lovely bunch lying around that I didn't want to see go to waste. The color of the wine is also a contested ingredient. I typically use a red Tuscan since it is what I am going to drink with the meal but if you prefer white, go with it. As to the tomatoes, here it is important to use good quality. I buy Cento San Marzano D.O.P. Certified. They are by far the best.
Another thing about ragu bolognese is the use of two different types of meat. I typically use beef and pork but beef and veal is also a nice combination. As with a lot of traditional dishes, you will be hard pressed to find two people who agree on one recipe for Ragu Bolognese. The one constant is the use of onions, celery and carrots so make sure you don't skip that! Check out Marcella Hazan's recipe in the country blog.
If there are only two of you, this quantity will be enough for two hefty servings of Tagliatelli alla Bolognese, with enough left for lasagna later on in the week. You can also double this recipe and freeze for a later use.
3 TB extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic mashed
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 stalk celery, leaves included, finely chopped
2 laurel leaves
1 carrot, scraped and finely chopped
1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground pork
1/4 pound pancetta, minced
1/2 cup milk
1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, preferably San Marzano, crushed by hand, with the juices
1 TB tomato paste
1/2 cup dry red wine (you can sub white)
Salt and pepper
2 TB chopped basil (optional)
2 lbs tagliatelle (for 8 people)
In a 6 to 8-quart, heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, carrot, laurel and garlic and sweat over medium heat until vegetables are translucent. Add pork, beef, and pancetta to the vegetables, brown over high heat, stirring to keep meat from sticking together for about 15 to 20 minutes. Add the milk and simmer until almost dry, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and tomato paste and simmer 15 minutes. Add the wine and bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, until flavors are developed. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and remove from the heat. Add the chopped basil if using at the last minute, stir and serve.The longer you cook it the better it is. Let it rest while you cook the tagliatelle.
Cook the tagliatelle in plenty of boiling, salted, water for about 10 minutes. When it's done, drain and add to the sauce. Mix and sprinkle with freshly grated Parmiggiano Reggiano.