Spaghetti Bolognese

Since I’ve mentioned it twice this week (and eaten it twice:  once the night I made it and once as a leftover), I thought I’d share the directions with you.

No, Spaghetti Bolognese does not contain bologna.  It is spaghetti as the Bolognese (the residents of the town of Bologna, Italy) make it.  BTW those big sausages that we slice up and call bologna did originate in Bologna, but there they are called mortadella.

Here are Emeril Lagasse’s proportions for a Bolognese sauce.  I don’t look at a recipe, but mine ends up being pretty much the same (provided I have everything on hand to make it):

1 tablespoon olive oil
4 ounces bacon or pancetta, diced
1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onions
3/4 cup diced carrots
3/4 cup diced celery
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 pound ground beef or ground veal
1/2 pound pork sausage, removed from the casings, or ground pork
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup red wine
2 (14 1/2-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes and their juice
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can tomato sauce
1 cup beef or chicken stock or broth
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 pound spaghetti
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan

In a large pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook, stirring, until browned and the fat is rendered, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the onions, carrots and celery and cook, stirring, until soft, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic, salt, pepper, bay leaves, thyme, oregano, cinnamon, and nutmeg and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add the beef and sausages, and cook, stirring, until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the wine and cook, stirring, to deglaze the pan and remove any browned bits sticking to the bottom of the pan, and until half of the liquid is evaporated, about 2 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and their juices, the tomato sauce, beef broth, and sugar and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, to keep the sauce from sticking to the bottom of the pan, until the sauce is thickened and flavorful, about 1 1/2 hours. Add the cream, butter, and parsley, stir well, and simmer for 2 minutes. Discard the bay leaves and adjust the seasoning, to taste. Remove from the heat and cover to keep warm until ready to serve.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and return the water to a low boil. Cook, stirring occasionally to prevent the noodles from sticking, until al dente, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain in a colander.

Add the pasta to the sauce, tossing to coat. Add 1/2 cup of the cheese and toss to blend. Divide among pasta bowls and serve with the cheese passed tableside. (Alternatively, toss only the desired portion of pasta with a bit of the sauce at a time in a serving bowl, reserving the remainder for another meal.)

RevJATB’s note:  I also usually put in some basil, either 1/2  teaspoon of the dried stuff, or if you have fresh basil available, chiffonade 10-12 leaves and throw ’em in.  I would use 1/4 tsp. of dried oregano at most:  often I omit it altogether:  this isn’t pizza sauce.  Spaghetti sauce isn’t supposed to be oregano-ey:  pizza sauce is.  If I have them, I also like to throw in about a half a pound of fresh, sliced mushrooms right after the mirepoix (or soffrito) looks about right.

The other night I didn’t have any cream on hand, and since the only milk in the fridge was skimmed, I skipped that part altogether, but it is delicious.  The cinnamon and nutmeg may sound strange, but these spices are characteristic of a Bolognese sauce.  They will give the sauce a character that your guests will love, but they will usually not be able put their finger on why it tastes so “exotic”.  Seasoning meat with cinnamon is common in a lot of Middle Eastern and North African cuisines, and it gives this sauce an incredible taste.

I completely left the bay leaves out when I made some the other night, and I didn’t miss them one bit.

One other place where I differ with ol’ Emeril:  I don’t add the tomatoes as soon as he does:  I think it gives the sauce too sharp a taste (like canned sauce has).  I cook the mirepoix, add the spices, and then the meat, just has he does, then I deglaze the pan with the wine, but without adding the tomato paste at that point.  Then I add the beef broth and the sugar (unrefined and organic, of course!) and let all of that cook for a good while (about an hour), stirring often.  Then I add the tomato paste, the tomatoes, and the tomato sauce and cook it about another hour.  I then continue as he does.  Tim Hauser said he learned this trick from Frankie Valli, and it really does seem to make a difference.

We never use regular spaghetti (the “fat strings”):  ’round here we prefer spaghettini, vermicelli, or even angel hair.


About revjatb

I am a father of six who is trying to do his best! My interests are varied. I have one blog, KnowTea, that is primarily focused on liturgy and worship and another one, Bengtsson's Baking, that is about, well, baking! I hope you enjoy both of them, and if you have any questions, please contact me!
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5 Responses to Spaghetti Bolognese

  1. Vrouw_Jonker says:

    Frankie Valli, as in, “Big Girls Don’t Cry”, “Rag Doll”, “Walk Like a Man (Sing Like a Girl)”????

  2. RevJATB says:

    That’s the one. Apparently (at least according to the aforementioned Tim Hauser), Frankie is quite the cook, pasta sauces being a specialty he learned from his Italian Mamma in New Jersey.

  3. TheOnlyMecow says:

    Ditto the “fat strings”

  4. RevJATB says:

    Yeah, I don’t know what it is about fat spaghetti. Maybe it reminds me too much of the school cafeteria or any institutional foods in general.

  5. Mark says:

    Lord Help! How many ingredients is in that? It is called Spaghetti Bolognese, and it ain’t even got bolgna in it. If Rachel Ray made this, she would need a junk basin instead of a junk bowl.

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