An authentic Bolognese sauce is called a ragù (pronounced "ragoo", and that is what you will find it called in Italy - Ragù alla Bolognese. In fact, the authentic Bolognese sauce recipe was registered in 1982 by the Accademia Italiana della Cucina, which is dedicated to the preservation of traditional Italian cooking. The Accademia has published a definitive book of Italian cooking: La Cucina.
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An authentic bolognese sauce contains no garlic and no herbs, lots of meat and relatively little tomato. Its ingredients are a soffrito (a mixture of finely chopped onion, carrot and celery), ground (minced) beef, pancetta or bacon, tomato paste, meat broth, white wine, and milk or cream.
Here is an interesting video showing the preparation of a Ragù all Bolognese. The ingredients for this Bolognese sauce are not quite completely authentic, but the method of preparation is.
Bolognese Sauce Recipe
- 250 ml of beef stock
- 50 gr butter
- 250 gr ground (minced) beef
- 250 gr ground (minced) pork (or substitute the same quantity of beef to be more authentic)
- 1 carrot finely chopped
- 1 onion finely chopped
- 1 stalk celery finely chopped
- 100 gr pancetta (or bacon) finely chopped
- 1 cup fresh whole milk
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 30 g tomato concentrate
- 1 glass red wine (the traditional Bolognese uses white wine)
In a pan with high sides, place the olive oil and butter over medium heat, and when the butter has melted add the chopped onion, carrot and celery and stir until they cook and brown a little.
Add the bacon and then the beef and cook until the meat has browned, stirring occasionally (30 minutes).
Add the wine and let the alcohol cook out for a minute or two, then melt the tomato paste in a little stock and add to the meat mixture.
Add salt to taste and cook the sauce for about an hour and a half on low heat, adding small amounts of the remaining stock from time to time and then, finally, the milk.
When the bolognese sauce is ready, add salt and pepper to taste.
Combine the sauce with the cooked pasta of your choice - fresh egg noodles are ideal. Offer Parmesan cheese to sprinkle as desired at the table.
An interesting contrast
It is interesting to compare Ragù alla Bolognese with Ragù alla Napoletana. A major difference is how the meat is used, as well as the amount of tomato in the sauce. Ragù alla Bolognese uses very finely chopped meat, while the Neapolitan version uses whole meat, taking it from the casserole when cooked and serving it as a second course or with pasta. Also, the Bolognese sauce contains more onion compared to the Napoletana version.
Preferences for ingredients also differ. In Naples, white wine is replaced by red wine, butter by lard or olive oil, and lots of basil leaves are used where Bolognese ragù has no herbs. The proportion of tomatoes to meat is much greater in southern Naples because the tomato season is much longer than in northern Bologna.
Here for comparison is a video showing the recipe and preparation of authentic Napoletana sauce, known as "Sunday Sauce". In southern Italy it is traditional to make the sauce with large pieces of meat, then to serve the sauce with pasta and the meat as a second course.
Both Bolognese sauce and Napoletana sauce are wonderful and it just depends on what ingredients you have available at the time, the weather (the heavier bolognese sauce is often more appealing in winter while the fresh tomato Napoletana is delightful when it is warmer).
This receipe depends on good, fresh ingredients and especially a good stock. Ideally, you would make your own. However there are very good products available which will make all the difference to your cooking. Here is my recommednation for the perfect beef stock to enhance all your dishes.
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