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Battle of the Bolognese

July 1, 2008

Being the foodie that I am, I subscribe to several food-oriented magazines. And one of my favorite things to do once I get each new issues is to create as many recipes as catch my interest. An issue of Saveur from a couple months ago caught my attention as their primary feature was the ultimate pasta and ragù sauce from Bologna–otherwise known as ragù alla Bolognese. While they featured nearly ten Bolognese recipes–all claiming to be the true, original ragù alla Bolognese–I chose to create only two. The two I decided to test were the sauces most similar to my family’s own recipe for ragù all Bolognese, which I believe is as near to perfect as a ragù sauce can be (not that I’m biased at all).

One of the sauces was completely unsatisfactory. We ended up adding nearly a quart of additional tomatoes and paste to the sauce to try to boost the too-milky flavor and consistency. The second sauce turned out surprisingly delicious, nearly rivaling my Nonna’s own recipe. The primary difference between the Saveur Bolognese sauce and my Nonna’s sauce is that the Saveur sauce includes pancetta and pork in addition to the beef. The pancetta is a nice addition to the ragù; although when it comes down to it, I still prefer the familiar taste of my Nonna’s homemade sauce.

Saveur’s ragù alla Bolognese:

Anna Nanni’s Ragù alla Bolognese


1 28-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes (with juice)
1⁄4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 rib celery, finely chopped
1⁄2 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1⁄2 medium carrot, finely chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 1⁄4 b. ground beef chuck
1⁄2 lb. ground pork shoulder
1 4-oz. piece pancetta, finely chopped
1⁄2 cup dry red wine

2 tbsp. Tomato Paste

Homemade Tagliatelle


Put the tomatoes and their juice into a blender; purée until smooth and set aside.

Heat the oil and butter in a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the celery, onions, and carrots, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring frequently, until soft and lightly browned (about 15 minutes). Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until very soft (about 15 minutes).

Add the beef and pork and cook, stirring and breaking up meat with a wooden spoon, until the meat begins to brown (about 10 minutes). Add the pancetta and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until its fat has rendered (about 10 minutes). Increase the heat to medium, add the wine, and simmer, stirring constantly, until evaporated (about 5 minutes).

Add tomato paste and cook, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes. Add reserved tomato purée, reduce heat to low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce is very thick (about 3 hours).

Season ragù with salt and pepper. Toss with fresh tagliatelle (this really does taste better with homemade tagliatelle–refer to my post about making fresh, homemade pasta for instructions) or the pasta of your choice. Serve with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and enjoy!

3 Comments leave one →
  1. July 1, 2008 3:47 pm

    I’m going to have to try this! I’m always looking for great sauce recipes. Every time I ask my uncle to write down my grandma’s red sauce recipe, he just says “it’s all up here…it’s just a little of this and a little of that” which doesn’t exactly help me, so I’ll have to borrow yours. 🙂

  2. September 3, 2008 4:02 pm

    That sauce looks so delicious and homemade, wonderful recipe :).

    We’d like to invite you to participate in our September apple and peach recipe contest (the recipe can be sweet or savory). All competitors will be eligible to win one of three prizes :)! Please email me,, if you’re interested.

    Feel free to check out our blog for more details:

    Thanks :),
    KI Chief Blogger

  3. Natalia permalink
    November 20, 2009 4:46 pm

    Monica just introduced me to this site a few weeks ago and i remembered it today because i’m cooking dinner for 7 of our friends tonight and couldn’t decide on what to cook. I think i’ll be cooking your bolognese 🙂 Thanks Liana!

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