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Easy authentic Ragù alla Bolognese

A combination of different cooking techniques, few but quality ingredients and cast iron cookware is what makes this easy authentic Bolognese recipe so incredibly tasty.
Course Main
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours
Total Time 3 hours 15 minutes
Servings 4
Author Johan Johansen

Ingredients

  • 1 large shallot finely diced
  • 1 large carrot finely diced
  • 1-2 celery stalks finely diced
  • 2 Two medium onions cut into slivers
  • 1 garlic clove roughly crushed (optional)
  • 100 grams Pancetta finely chopped
  • 500 grams ground beef organic, free-range, 8-15% fat content
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes thoroughly drained, reserve the water that runs off, we might need it
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 200 milliliters dry white wine oaked chardonnay works well
  • 150 milliliters heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce
  • 1 dash hot sauce
  • 1 splash concentrated beef stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 star anise pod
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Put a dutch oven or other heavy cast iron pot over low heat, add oil and Pancetta and gently warm through
  2. Add shallot, carrot, celery, garlic and a dash of salt. Cook over low heat stirring ever so often for about half an hour until soft and incredibly fragrant. Vegetables should sweat gently and not splatter or hiss. If you hear hissing, you're doing it wrong!

Continue sweating aromatics over the next couple of steps:

  1. When the aromatic veggies have been sweating for about half an hour, heat a cast iron pan with a tablespoon of oil over medium heat on another burner.
  2. When pan is hot, add the slivered onions along with a heavy pinch of salt and cook over medium heat stirring every now and then.
  3. At this point, remove beef from the refrigerator, unwrap and sprinkle generously with salt.
  4. Continue cooking onions until they're a well caramelized, dark brown, sticky mess. Probably about 15-20 minutes depending on your stove. Add the two tablespoons of sherry vinegar, stir briefly and dump the onions into the pot of still sweating vegetables, stir thoroughly to combine, and continue sweating everything together.
  5. Return cast iron pan to the burner, add a little more oil and raise heat to medium-high.
  6. When pan has come up to temperature, dump in the ground beef and just leave it there to brown. Do not move it around, break it up or any other such nonsense, that will only lower the heat of the pan. Leave it alone for a good few minutes.
  7. When meat has thoroughly browned on one side, carefully flip it over using a spoon or spatula, once again trying your best not to move it around too much or break it up. Leave to brown for another few minutes, THEN you can start breaking it up and getting it evenly brown all over, this might take another few minutes.
  8. Next, add the browned beef to the pot of sweating veggies, return the pan to the burner and dump in about half of the white wine. Scrape the bottom of the pan with a spatula or wooden spoon to get all the nice, caramelized bits of onion and beef loose. This is called deglazing and is a key trick for extra flavor.
  9. Once all brown bits have been loosened, dump what remains of the wine along with the pan scrapings into the pot of Bolognese to be and get rid of the pan.
  10. Raise heat under Bolognese pot to medium, add basil, oregano, thyme and quite a few generous grinds of black pepper. Stir and bring to a simmer.
  11. Once pot is simmering, add tomato paste, chopped tomatoes, cream, fish sauce, hot sauce, concentrated beef stock, remaining wine, bay leaf and star anise.
  12. Stir to combine, cover pot with a lid and simmer over low heat for at least an hour.

Final stages:

  1. After an hour is up, remove lid, stir again and simmer uncovered for at least another hour.
  2. If too much moisture evaporates during the final stage of cooking, you can replace it with either the liquid drained from the tomatoes or a little more white wine.
  3. Important note: Do not add too much liquid! Final texture should be thick and creamy. Add just enough to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pot and burning.
  4. How will you know when burning is about to occur? Stir regularly when simmering uncovered, if at any point things feel like they're about to stick, add a bit of liquid then stir again.
  5. When you can't stand to simmer things any longer, remove the bay leaf and the star anise, give your bolognese a taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
  6. If flavor is too rich, add a dash or two of sherry vinegar. If it is, on the other hand, too acidic, add a bit of sugar or some (Heinz) tomato ketchup.
  7. Remove from heat and serve over freshly cooked pasta with a generous grating of quality Parmesan cheese.