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How to Make a Basic Bolognese Sauce

Our Editor-in-Chief shares his most basic recipe for a classic Bolognese meat sauce that emphasizes the aromatics at the base.

10:00 AM EST on December 27, 2023

Pasta Bolognese.

Pasta Bolognese.

Bolognese sauce is classic. While trends come and go in the space of pasta sauce, Bolognese remains a staple on restaurant menus and in home kitchens.

Another cool thing about Bolognese is that it's open to various interpretations (even this vegan recipe from Chef Riccardo Orfino, acclaimed Italian chef/partner of NYC's Osteria 57 and Alice), so the "Pasta Police" don't freak out if the traditional recipe is modified in adventurous ways.

I'll share some interpretations, both fast and slow with diverse ingredients, in subsequent weeks, but I must begin with what I consider a basic Bolognese.

The key, no matter what interpretation of this classic sauce, is getting the soffritto right. I'm talking the mix of chopped vegetables (carrot, onion, celery) that serve as the base of the sauce.

Soffritto.

Chopping the vegetables evenly (into a small dice) and allowing them to slowly soften (almost to a paste) creates the effective framework for flavoring all the layers that come after this crucial first step. And just like in browning the meat in step 2, take your time, don't over stir, but don't walk away. Babysit those aromatics so they concentrate in flavor and are able to blend with the meat while it browns and later with the tomatoes for that harmonious flavor that makes Bolognese so satisfying and ever-popular.

Give this a try and let us know what you think! We are also open to your favorite ways to make Bolognese, so write to me (andrew@appetitomagazine.com) if you'd like to share!

Basic Bolognese Sauce

Basic Bolognese Sauce

0 from 0 votes
Recipe by Andrew Cotto
Servings

8

servings
Prep time

20

minutes
Cooking time

2

hours 

Ingredients

  • 1 cup 1 chopped carrot

  • 1 cup 1 chopped onion

  • 1 cup 1 chopped celery

  • 2 pounds 2 ground chuck

  • 2 cups 2 dry red wine

  • 1 28 oz can 1 (whole) San Marzano tomatoes

  • 2 tbs. 2 dried oregano

  • salt & pepper (to taste)

  • 1/2 cup 1/2 extra virgin olive oil

Directions

  • Heat the oil in a large, wide pan or Dutch oven over medium heat.
  • When the oil is shimmering, add the soffritto (carrots, onion and celery).
  • Season with salt & pepper to taste, stir.
  • Lower the heat to allow the soffritto to slowly soften.
  • Stir soffritto every five minutes until it is almost a paste (around 20 minutes total).
  • Raise heat to medium-high and add the ground meat.
  • Season the meat with salt & pepper.
  • Brown the meat evenly, stirring on occasion (around 20 minutes).
  • Add the wine and deglaze the pan by stirring until the wine begins to boil.
  • Lower the heat slightly, and allow the wine to reduce almost entirely (five minutes).
  • Add the tomatoes, crush with a fork, season with S & P and stir until just boiling.
  • Add the oregano and stir.
  • Lower the heat and cover until a simmer forms.
  • Allow the sauce to cook down, checking on the simmer, for (roughly) 90 minutes until the meat is tender and flavorful.
  • Serve as desired!

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