A pot of richly fragrant sauce bubbling on the stove can help counter the chill of drizzly weather this time of year. This hearty bolognese sports bits of flavorsome pork and beef perfumed with herbs and simmered alongside onion and celery in a bath of wine and tomatoes. Though it’s up for debate whether the recipe below would be technically classified bolognese or ragu depending on the wine you use, it’s indisputably delicious. I chose spaghetti pasta this last time around, but perhaps an even better (and more traditional) way to enjoy rich, substantial Italian sauces of this sort is with a pasta like tagliatelle, pappardelle, or rigatoni - these pastas have plenty of surface area to carry an ample sauce. However, if you happen to have some spaghetti on hand in a little corner of your pantry like I did, that will do nicely. Be sure to give the sauce a good amount of time to simmer away, about two hours if you can, as this will cut the acidity of the tomatoes and create a rich, decadent sauce with delectable depth in flavor.
8 oz ground pork*
8 oz ground beef*
One 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
2 celery ribs, finely chopped
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, minced
1 bunch sage, minced
1 bunch basil, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup wine - I prefer red, but white is lovely too.
1/4 cup cream (optional)
A pinch of sugar
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 lb spaghetti or your preferred pasta - tagliatelle, pappardelle, or rigatoni would be wonderful as well.
Parmesan, for topping
*I prefer half pork and half beef for this recipe, however, a whole pound of one or the other will do. Ground Italian sausage would be a delicious substitute for the pork as well to accompany the beef. Ask at the butcher counter for 8 oz of each, but if you can only find 1 lb portions at your market, you can always make double the recipe and freeze half for another time in a large freezer-safe ziplock bag after cooling the sauce completely (if freezing, omit the cream). If you decide to do so, place the bag of frozen sauce in the fridge the night before you want to serve it to thaw, then heat in a saucepan until piping hot.
In a dutch oven or large pot, heat a splash of olive oil over medium heat until shimmering and add the onion and celery. Stir every so often and once the onions are translucent and beginning to caramelize, add the ground meat. Cook until browned, add the herbs and garlic with a bit of salt and pepper, and cook until the herbs and garlic are fragrant, about a minute. When the meat is cooked through and browning on the bottom of the pan, pour in the wine to sfumare, or deglaze, the browned bits. Stir and allow the wine to reduce for a minute, then add the crushed tomatoes and a pinch of sugar. Turn the heat to low and allow to simmer for 2 hours.
When the sauce has cooked for about 2 hours, bring a salted pot of water to a boil and cook the pasta until al dente. Taste the sauce while the pasta cooks and add salt and pepper if needed. Drain the pasta, top with sauce, and grate a generous amount fresh parmesan over the top.