This one is a goodie. Another long cook, perfect to fill these long quarantine days.
I’ve seen many versions of Bolognese, and I’m sure many cooks would argue that their way is the only way! Tomato sauce, cream, beef, veal, pork – the options are endless – but this has become my favorite over the years. I skip canned tomatoes or tomato sauce, in favor of fresh tomatoes. They add some nice acidity, without overpowering the other ingredients, so the sauce really builds from the meat and the stock. The result is a rich, velvety bolognese, sharpened with pancetta and parmesan. I also like to add cracked black pepper at the end, as more of a garnish, and you’ll see this in a lot of my recipes. I think you really taste the freshness in the pepper that way!
The pasta pictured here is calamarata, named for its resemblance to sliced calamari, but this sauce is equally delicious with long egg noodles like fettucine, tagliatelle or pappardelle, if you’re in the mood to twirl! De Cecco makes my favorite store-bought pasta. I don’t buy anything else!
Just a quick word on cooking pasta. Lots of water. Salty like the ocean! Whenever you’re saucing pasta, it’s best to let the noodles finish cooking directly in the sauce. They’ll absorb more flavor. More on that in the method below. I hope you love this dish as much as I do!
- 2 ounces chopped pancetta
- 1 pound ground beef (I use 85/15. This recipe is also delicious with meatloaf mix, which is a blend of equal parts beef, veal and pork.)
- 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
- 1 carrot, finely chopped
- 1 celery stalk, finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 2 cups low sodium beef broth
- 2 large tomatoes, finely chopped
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- olive oil
- salt & cracked black pepper
- 1 pound pasta of your choice
- chopped fresh parsley
- grated parmesan cheese
In a Dutch oven, or large, heavy-bottomed pot, preheat olive oil – about three turns of the pan – over medium heat. Fry the pancetta until golden and crispy. Remove from the pan, leaving the fat and brown bits behind. Increase the heat to medium-high, season the ground meat with salt and brown on all sides, using a wooden spoon to break it up. Add the onion, carrot and celery and cook until softened, about eight minutes. Stir in the garlic, and cook another minute or two. Next, add the nutmeg and stir until fragrant.
Lower the heat back to medium, and deglaze the pan with white wine. Simmer until almost completely evaporated. Add the beef broth and simmer until reduced by about half. Finally, stir in the tomatoes and bay leaves. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally for an hour and a half. If the sauce is thin, remove the lid and continue to simmer for about ten minutes. Taste and season with salt if needed.
Cook your pasta in a large pot of salty water per package instructions until just shy of al dente – it will finish cooking in the sauce. I usually cut the suggested cooking time by about two minutes.
Use tongs to transfer the pasta directly into the sauce pan. Let a little of the cooking water spill in too. Add the butter and a healthy dusting of parmesan cheese. Toss to combine. Give the pan a few flips if you’re feeling comfortable! If you need more liquid, add more cooking water. To reduce liquid, simmer another minute or two. It’s okay if the sauce is a little (just a little!) loose at this point; the pasta will continue to absorb it when plated. Taste the pasta to check for seasoning and doneness. To plate, top with more parmesan, fresh parsley and cracked black pepper. Serve immediately.