It's no secret that we love Italian food. Some of the most comforting meals I prepare have their genesis with Italy. Osso Bucco, chicken or pork Milanese, even the Fiorentina. But perhaps nothing is more comforting than a bubbly pot of that classic Bologna ragu, Bolognese. What follows is my process - very simple actually - along with photos at every step. Enjoy!
Mis en place
1 pound ground pork
2 pounds ground beef
2 packages diced pancetta
1 small package dried porcini
1 pint light cream
2 carrots diced small
2 celery stalks diced small
1 large sweet onion diced small
1 28oz Can Crushed Tomatoes
Splash dry white wine
Dice the carrots, celery, and onion and set aside. Boil enough water to cover the dried porcini. Pour the water over the mushrooms and allow to reconstitute. In a heavy bottomed pot, I used the Le Cruset, begin by rendering the pancetta. Do this until you get a bit of color on the bottom of the pan. Here's the starting point...
|Mis en place: Soffritto and dried Porcini (No water added yet)|
|Rendering the Pancetta: You can start to see some color on the pot|
Once you have the pancetta rendered, it will begin to get a bit crispy. Add the diced vegtables and a splash of wine to deglaze the pot. Stir and allow the vegetables to soften well. Here's what it'll look like.
|Soffritto added: Softening the veggies. Pot deglazed.|
Once the vegetables soften, about 8 minutes over medium heat, begin adding the raw meat. It doesn't matter in what order you add it, just do it a pound at a time and break it up with a wooden spoon before you add the next package of meat. When all the meat is incorporated, add about 1/2 the light cream. Stir to coat, cover the pot and cook for about 5-8 minutes. Here's a picture right before covering the pot.
|Meat Added: Raw Meat & Cream. Cover and Simmer for 5-8 minutes|
After you've simmered this, the meat will be mostly cooked through. Uncover, wash the lid, and put it away. Don't take it out again, even if you're tempted. The next step is to season the meat with salt & pepper, and to add the tomatoes. I ended up using only about 3/4 of the can. Use the best quality tomatoes you can find and add as much or as little as you like. After you stir in the tomatoes, simmer on low heat for 20-30 minutes and then add the dried porcini including all of the steeping broth. Here's a picture.
|Starting to change to that luscious sienna umber color|
At this point, you're basically done. Reduce the heat to low, and allow to simmer and fill your home with tremendous aromas. The longer this cooks, the better it tastes. I began mine around 11AM and we had dinner at 6:30. It essentially simmered the entire time. Just be on hand to stir it occasionally.
Finally, about 30 minutes before serving, add a pinch of nutmeg - a little goes a long way - and about half of the remaining cream. Check seasoning and then allow to simmer until you eat. This is the final picture of the finished ragu.
|Ragu alla Bolognese: Ready for the plating|
I wasn't able to find nice pappardelle and my youngest wanted penne, so that's what we did. Here is the final platter, ready for the table. Tutti a tavola a mangiare!
|Penne alla ragu Bolognese!|
The best part of this, is that your labor comes with a bonus. We only used about 1/2 the ragu and the leftovers easily freeze. So there's at least one more serving of Bolognese to be had! This is so good.
As for Vino.... Like Osso Bucco, I have found it almost impossible to find a red wine that does not pair well with this food. We opted for the 2005 San Guisto La Ricolma, a 100% Merlot from Tuscany. I will review that later this week....