What comes to mind when you think of a bolognese? It’s probably not the same thing that comes to my mind. It is my belief that ragu bolognese is one of the most misunderstood Italian sauces, ever. I’m no Italian, but I do think I can help set the record straight.
The words ragu bolognese usually conjure images of a thick and chunky tomato sauce with ground beef piled on top of a plate of spaghetti. Well, if you didn’t click the wikipedia link above, then I guess I’ll have to be the bearer of bad news. Or good news, depending on your perspective.
While bolognese is, indeed, a hearty meat sauce, it actually contains almost no tomato. Originating in Bologna, the earliest versions of bolognese didn’t have any tomato product, as tomatoes are not native to Italy. Once tomatoes where introduce into Italian culture, it eventually became tradition to add a small amount of tomato paste to the sauce. A true ragu bolognese is ground, cooked meat that simmers in wine and milk for several hours, at least two but up to six, until it has reduced into a nice thick sauce. It is a very hearty and rich sauce that is full of flavor. It is mostly accompanied by a thicker, wider pasta, such as tagliatelle, which holds on to the sauce better than thin pastas like spaghetti.
It is also the key ingredient for lasagna bolognese. Traditional lasagna bolognese pairs lasagna pasta sheets with ragu bolognese and a creamy bechemel sauce. In lieu of bechemel, I decided to mix some homemade ricotta with herbs, shredded mozzarella, and grana padano, which I think holds up better.
The ragu bolognese is inspired by Mario Batali’s recipe.
Makes six servings
- 2 strips of bacon, cut into small pieces
- 1 carrot
- 1 onion
- 1 clove of garlic
- 1 pound of ground beef
- 1 pound of ground pork
- 6 ounces of tomato paste
- 1 cup of whole milk
- 1 cup of dry red wine
- Heat a large pot on medium heat. Add bacon, rendering the fat and cooking until it starts to crisp.
- While bacon is cooking, cut the onion, carrot, and garlic in a very small dice.
Chop them veggies and add them to some bacon fat!
- Add onions, carrots, and garlic to the cooked bacon and rendered fat. Cook until onions are soft and translucent
- Add the ground beef and pork. Stir into the vegetables and cook until fully browned.
Pork and beef
- Add milk, red wine, and tomato paste. Stir until fully incorporated. Reduce heat to low and cook until the liquid has reduced and has turned into a thick, meaty sauce. This could take two hours or more.
Add wine, milk, and tomato paste
- Salt to taste.
Reduce it down to a nice thick consistency
For Ricotta Mixture
- 2 cups of ricotta
- 2 ounces of shredded mozzarella
- 1 ounce of grated grana padano or parmigiano-reggiano
- 1 egg yolk
- 1/2 teaspoon dry thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon dry basil
- 1/2 teaspoon of dry oregano
- Combine ingredients until fully incorporated. Refrigerate until needed.
- Um. That’s it. Move on.
- Ragu Bolognese from above
- Ricotta Mixture from above
- About 6 sheets of lasagna
Use the fresh pasta recipe and cut it with scissors to fit in the pan, or par-cook 6 store bought sheets
- 4 ounces of shredded mozzarella
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- In greased 9 x 9 pan, spread a small amount of bolognese over the bottom. Add one layer of lasagna sheets.
- Spread another layer of bolognese over the pasta and layer about half of the mozzarella.
Add more tastiness
- Add another layer of lasagna sheets. Spread all of the ricotta mixture over the pasta.
Followed by deliciousness
- Add the last layer of lasagna sheets. Spread the remaining bolognese over the pasta and add the last of the shredded mozzarella.
And finally some lusciousness
- Place the lasagna in the oven. Bake for about 30 minutes. Done!
In the oven
I would highly recommend cooking up some vegetables to go with this. Perhaps a hefty portion of brocolli. This lasagna is incredibly rich and delicious, and you might have a heart attack if you have more than one piece. Eating a vegetable may help you feel better about yourself after you devour the lasagna.
Now, eat it!