I should state a few things from the very start:
- A “true’ traditional ragù is much more likely to be made from chunks of meat than mince – but mince is easier to acquire and work with.
- Even in Bologna, the exact mix of ingredients, herbs and even the specific cuts of (let alone type of!) meat is contested within the same street …
- That said, this methodology for the Bologna style of ragù, however, is true to form and tradition.
- 150g of soffritto
- 150g of finely chopped pancetta (You can substitute English Bacon or speck if you need to. Do not use prosciutto as it is too dry and too salty).
- 300g of minced beef (ideally, you are wanting to get your butcher to mince up some skirt steak for this, however, a good grade mince is fine).
- 150g of minced pork (I normally go for ground shoulder – but normal mince is fine. Also, if you want, you can just get a few continental pork sausages and pop them out of their skin – this adds a few spices and herbs like fennel, hot paprika and mild chilli that gives a delightful zing).
- 60g of a high quality double concentrated tomato puree (approximately 130g for non concentrated or 40g of triple concentrated)
- A glass of red wine (I tend to use a shiraz mix)
- 200ml of beef consommé (a good quality beef or veal stock are easily substituted … as is chicken stock in a pinch)
- 200ml of full cream milk (don’t go soft on me and get skinny milk! You need the fat from the cream to carry the flavour!)
- salt, black pepper, pinch of nutmeg and a bay leaf.
- Grab out a large pot – preferably heavy bottomed thing that maintains a good solid heat. Heat it up to medium and add a teaspoon of butter to a teaspoon of olive oil and when they are combined, add the pancetta. Fry it until the fat is released, but not crisping.
- Add the soffritto and stir-fry them until the onions are transparent. Add the beef and pork mince. Using a whisk (yes you read that right!) mash the mince to help separate and granulate the meat. Keep doing this and stirring the meat around until the meat is slightly brown and making popping noises.
- Add the wine and consommé, allow it to cook and reduce for about 20 minutes.
- Add the puree and mix it in well. Slowly addd the milk whilst stirring in a planetary mix format until it is fully absorbed and the liquid has a uniform colour.
- Add the spices, lower the heat to low and cover the pot. Cook the mix for approximately three hours.
- Keep checking it from time to time. If it starts to look like it is drying out, add a little more milk to moisten it.
- At the end of the time, you will get a thick, rich ragù that will stick to your pasta.
Traditionally, it should be served with fettucini or papardelle – but as my Ingrid isn’t a fan of either, I tend to do the “unthinkable” and serve it with spaghetti … That said, at the end of the day, you really do want a pasta that captures and holds the sauce, but it is up to you.
Finally, while parmesan is almost always the cheese of choice, I do recommend trying to get some grated salted ricotta and try that as a treat. The way it was done in our family was to add a knob of butter to the pasta and then stir in the grated cheese, ensuring it would stick to the butter coated pasta, then it was served out onto plates and the ragù scooped on top.
As always, let me know how it went for you 🙂
[More at I’m no master chef … ]