When I wrote about my quest for the bolognese in the summer, some of you came to me and told me your secret ingredients, some sent in links, some even sent in treasured handed-down-over-generations recipes. I’m really grateful to all of you for taking the time and the effort; as I get around to trying them out, I will make sure I get back to you with the results.
The recipe for today’s attempt, shown above, is based on conversations with the chef in one of the restaurants in Bologna, I believe it was the Osteria dell’Orsa. Sadly I lost the scrap of paper he gave me for my notes, along with some of my other Bologna jottings, so I’ve tried to recall the recipe from memory.
What I could remember was the following: he recommended a 50:50 ratio of beef to pork; he suggested the use of white wine rather than red; asked me to quietly add half a glass of milk between the wine reduction and the tomato reduction and insisted on adding a crushed-to-powder chicken stock cube with some roasted garlic, once the tomatoes had been in for a while. So I then looked in epicurious for a recipe that came close, one that I felt I could play with in order to get close to what I remembered. And I found this one: Pasta with bolognese sauce, Gourmet, February 1997
I kept faith with that recipe as much as I could, just replacing the nutmegs with the garlic and chicken stock. Everything else was as per the Gourmet recipe; that way I could have some sense of ratios and proportions while trying to be faithful to the lost notes.
And you know what? It was worth it. It had the browny-dark-orangey colour I wanted (rather than the more common red of the over-tomatoed ragu); nearly two hours of cooking time, most of it on simmer, meant that the sauce was thick without being lumpy; the white wine seemed to work better with the pork, I could sense a difference from past attempts; and the late entry of the garlic gave the dish quite a good rounded balance.
One of the things I really liked about the recipe was the reduction-upon-reduction approach. Olive oil and butter; then wine; then milk; then tomatoes. It gave you a real sense of layering the sauce, brought the richness to life.
I’m sure every one of you has your own personal taste in ragu, so this is by no means an attempt to be definitive. But if you like your meat sauce to be low on the tomatoey-ness, if you like thick-but-not-lumpy sauce, and if you like your pork and your beef, then it’s worth trying out.
I’m really looking forward to the next ragu session, where I get the chance to use a recipe handed down by Jon Silk’s grandmother Emilia Bardelli. [Jon, thanks again for the recipe, looking forward to trying it out].