We always make Sunday night dinner a big event in my home. More in the likes of closing a week and welcoming the new week.
Dinner is always at the core of our evening as we enjoy the most restful dinner of the week, with no rushing around or homework to rush to. The perfect family time. Time to have a wonderful meal all together.
We always have dinner in the dining room. Life is too short; enjoy that beautiful room, candles on the table, and the aroma of dinner lingering in the house.
Ragu Alla Bolognese is a dish my family requests, and I am always prone to oblige as it is super easy to make. The stove does everything, even though it takes a couple of hours.
But you will not be disappointed once you sit at your dinner table as it always brings a smile of happiness when served.
There is as many version of this dish as they are chefs. This is one of the favorites that my nephew, Timothy, prepared for us, and I have been making since.
The ingredients you are using are essential to this dish. From the meat to the tomatoes, everything will play an important role.
What is ragu alla Bolognese?
Bolognese sauce or Ragu alla Bolognese is an Italian meat-based sauce originating in Bologna in Northern Italy.
Beef and pork are your staple meats. You will find chefs and recipes with added veal to them. Pancetta is also added. Delicious, either way, you go.
If you are not a pork eater, you can leave it out.
This sauce is also used to make lasagne.
Why do we add porcini mushrooms?
I love porcini mushrooms. They bring such a deep flavor to so many excellent Italian dishes. Woody and earthy are my favorites.
Porcini are edible brown-capped fungi with thick white stalks. The world’s most eaten mushrooms, and I can see why? Super tender when cooked fresh. Full of flavor when rehydrated from dry.
It is hard to find fresh porcini mushrooms. Therefore a great substitute is the dried one. The only thing you need to do is to rehydrate them by placing them in a container with boiling water.
Add water to cover and a couple of inches above that. The mushrooms will swell up, and you want them in the water to be fully rehydrated,
Once soaked and ready to use, strain and do not discard the water. You will be amazed at how much flavor the sauce will hold and give to all your dishes.
Excellent also with brown sauces and over-grilled steak.
What is so special about San Marzano tomatoes?
San Marzano is a type of plum tomato. Longer and thinner than your typical plum tomato. Vibrant red in color and rich in flavor.
They also have fewer seeds than your regular plum tomatoes.
One thing that makes the San Marzano tomatoes the most sought after by chefs worldwide. Besides having fewer seeds, they have less acidity than other tomatoes. Idyllic for Italian cuisine.
San Marzano tomatoes are regulated and certified authentic by an independent party, making them a bit more pricey than your regular tomatoes. However, once you cook with them, there is no going back.
Originally from Agro Sarnese Nocerino, which is located between Naples and Salerno.
Here are a few helpful tips for the ingredients needed
Meats: Ground beef, 15% fat content or 85/15, ground pork sausage, and ground veal. All three types of meat combined give this excellent ragu a rich flavor and consistency.
Bay leaves: there is nothing more savory than the flavor of bay leaves cooked with the wine. Light, subtle hint, and not overpowering.
Red wine: The star of this sauce if you ask me. I always cook with the wine I will drink for my dinner. This is a step that you cannot skip over. The richness of your red wine, I used Pinot Noir, gives this sauce a wonderfully rich taste. The meat will absorb it, and the condensed flavor marries with the wine.
Carrot: to bring sweetness to this dish. Dice into small pieces. They will dissolve almost thru the cooking process.
Garlic: In Italy, garlic is used to give the oil the flavor it needs, not the intense garlicky bite that we are used to here in the United States. Therefore the garlic will be added whole to the oil until it turns golden and disposed of before all the other ingredients are added to the cooking process.
Onion: yellow is my preference. Chopping in small diced.
Sugar: It helps balance the acidity of the tomatoes. Do not skip this step.
Porcini: You may not see them in your sauce, but added to this Bolognese, the richness of the woods is in your dish.
Tomato paste: Adds a deeper flavor to your meats.
San Marzano Italian plum tomatoes: Look for the approval stamp of origin. You will love the richness in flavor and color. The least amount of seeds and minimal acidity.
Cooking tips and step by step to make this fantastic Ragu Alla Bolognese
This dish will come together quickly, and the stove will do all the cooking for you. Use a wider bottom Dutch oven pan if you have it. It will cook a bit faster.
Start by soaking the dry porcini mushrooms before you do anything else. The longer they stay in hot water, the softer they will get. When softened, do NOT toss the water. You will need it in the cooking process.
By having three different types of meat to work with, I usually, by hand, mix all three of them. In the process, you will also eliminate some of the clumps.
Golden the garlic and toss.
Smaller diced carrots and garlic will soften and become translucent in no time. Keep an eye on them to not burn them.
Add the meat to your pan and gently separate any clumps that may form.
All the meat juices must be rendered before adding the tomatoes. This step is essential as it will reduce the amount of liquid in your Bolognese, making it rich in consistency.
Chop the porcini mushrooms and strain the liquid to remove any debris. The mushrooms liquid will enhance your sauce by adding a layer of earthiness to your ragu.
In my recipe, I only use one cup of mushroom water. Do save the other cup. I usually add it to my ragu when it gets a bit dry.
Add the tomatoes, sugar, salt, and pepper and mix well. Lower the heat to bring it to a gentle simmer, cover it, and let it cook.
If it becomes dry, you have the choice to add more wine or add more of the mushroom liquid. I add half of both to my sauce. I like the richness that both bring to this dish.
Remove the bay leaves before serving.
Can you make this ahead of time?
Ragu Alla Bolognese is one dish that tastes great the same day you make it. And even better the day after. The meat and tomato have time to infuse each other.
Storage and reheating instructions
I usually prepare it in the morning and let it rest before dinner. It saves in the freezer perfectly, so do not be afraid to freeze the unused portion for another night during a busy school night.
I calculate how much I use per serving and freeze packets of ragu corresponding. This will allow me to have more dinners than a couple of nights in a row.
If you enjoy this delicious Ragu Alla Bolognese, look at some of my other recipes:
Add the onions and carrots and mix well. When the onions are translucent, add the meats (beef, veal, and pork) and separate well with the back of a wooden spoon. Add the tomato paste and mix well.
Cook the meats until all the liquid is evaporated.
Add the bay leaves, red wine, chopped porcini mushrooms, and half of the strained mushrooms liquid. Mix well.
Add the tomatoes, salt, pepper, and sugar. Mix well, lower the heat to simmer, cover, and cook for 1 hour to 1 ½ hours. Stir occasionally. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper to your liking. Add more wine if too dry. Cook uncovered for another 30 minutes.
Remove the bay leaves before serving.
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Originally published on February 27, 2019. Updated on November 10, 2022.