Ragu alla Bolognese

The classic Italian bolognese meat pasta sauce. Many different (authentic and less authentic) recipes can be found on the internet, all of them contain more or less the same ingredients, this one is my version. A good bolognese can’t be rushed, to obtain the rich, meaty flavours it needs a few hours to cook and to reduce the liquids down, to intensify all the flavours. And making a small portion doesn’t work either. Luckily it freezes well for a few months, so I cook this in bulk and freeze portions for later, to use on busy (or lazy) days. I usually serve this sauce with spaghetti, which is very un-Italian because the pieces of meat don’t adhere well to the pasta, or with penne or tagliatelle as the Italians do. And of course a good sprinkling of Parmesan to add even more flavour and richness!

Ragu alla Bolognaise

Ragu alla bolognese (serves 6, or serves 2 with 2 extra portions for the freezer)
Adapted from the Conran Cookbook

3 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped finely
2 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
1 large carrot, chopped finely
1 celery stick (with leaves), finely chopped
500 g mince (half beef, half pork)
3 large, ripe tomatoes, skinned and chopped (a can of tomatoes works well too)
a large sprig of thyme
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper
150 ml chicken stock
a wineglass of red wine
Parmesan, for serving
Pasta, for serving

Optionals:
few rashers of bacon (add together with meat)
rind of a piece of parmesan (add with liquids, fish out before serving)
splash of cream or a knob of butter (when serving, adds richness)

Heat the olive oil in a pan (I always use my Dutch oven for this). Add the onion, garlic, carrot and celery and sweat until softened. Add the minced meat to the pan. Turn up the heat and brown the meat, stirring to crush the lumps. Add the tomatoes, thyme and bay leaves and season with salt and pepper. Cook until most of the liquid from the tomatoes has evaporated. Add a little of the stock and the red wine and stir. Leave the sauce to simmer gently for about 1.5 hours, adding more stock and wine as it is needed, using water if you run out of these. When ready the sauce should be thick and smooth. Check for seasoning and serve immediately or leave to cool for freezing.

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