I have been cooking spaghetti bolognese for years, but never have I tasted such an incredible, authentic bolognese sauce until I went on a Costa Cruise last year. I found it hard to believe at first – that I would have the best spaghetti bolognese on a cruise ship. It was so good, I ordered it whenever I had a chance. It tastes fantastic with red wine too.
After disembarking from the cruise, I went online and did some research.
Turns out the secret to making a really good, authentic bolognese sauce is in getting three things right:
- The texture of the meat
- The stock
- The cheese
I learnt that most Italian households used a combination of pork and beef in their sauce, so as to achieve a firm yet chewy texture. All beef and no pork could leave you with a very rough meat texture. Afterall, this is a meat sauce – not a tomato sauce.
Next, the stock. It’s basically the foundation of your sauce. Having sweet vegetables and a solid beef broth adds various layers of complexity to your sauce.
Lastly, I cannot emphasise enough that good cheese like parmigiano-reggiano must be used. It makes all the difference in the world. The use of good cheese to a simple bolognese sauce is like Justin Bieber’s haircut to Justin Bieber.
See recipe below.
- 300 g minced pork mix together with minced beef
- 300 g minced beef mix together with minced pork
- 90 ml extra virgin olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1/2 large yellow onion finely and evenly chopped/diced
- 2 stalks celery finely and evenly chopped/diced
- 1 stalk carrot chopped finely
- 1-2 tablespoons water
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 1 cup beef stock
- 1 cup tomato paste
- 1 cup milk
- Generous amounts Fresh parmigiano-reggiano cheese grated
- Tagliatelle, pappardelle, or spaghetti cooked in salted boiling water
Prep all the vegetables (carrot, celery, onion, and garlic) and set aside. In a large bowl, mix the minced pork and minced beef together. Use your hands to make sure they are evenly combined.
In a deep casserole or pot over high heat, pour olive oil.
Add the chopped garlic. Stir quickly for 5-10 seconds or till golden, then add the onions, carrots, and celery. Add a good pinch of salt to the ingredients and sauté for 2 minutes, stirring often.
Now, pour about 1-2 tablespoons of water into the vegetables to make them softer. Allow the vegetables to sit in the pot for a few minutes, till the water is fully evaporated. If it's taking a long time, turn up the heat. Let the water dry out completely.
Push the vegetables aside, and make some space in the pot. Pour about a tablespoon of olive oil into the pot. Increase the heat to high (if it's not already on high) and add the meat into the oil a portion at a time, stirring and breaking them apart constantly. Adding the meat a portion at a time allows the liquid to evaporate and browns the meat nicely. Cook until no pink in the meat is seen. Watch over your pan and stir constantly as you do not want your meat to burn. Do this for about 5-8 minutes.
When you start to see the meat turning a nice brown, lower the heat to medium. Continue to stir and let it cook for a while more.
Now, it's time to do some deglazing. Pour 1 cup of white wine into the pot. Using a wooden spoon, scrape all the nice brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Push all the meat around with your spoon. Do this till the wine has evaporated. Lower the heat before the meat starts to stick to the pan.
Add 1 cup each of beef stock, milk, and tomato paste. Then some salt and pepper to taste. Bring the sauce to a boil and lower to the lowest setting. Allow the sauce to simmer, half-covered, for about 4 hours. Check on the saucepan and stir occasionally.
Just 30 minutes before your meal, prepare a pot of salted boiling water and add pasta of your choice. I’m a spaghetti monster so that’s usually what I like to pair with this sauce.
When the pasta is cooked, remove from water and strain. Run it under cold water. Leave it.
The sauce should be nicely simmered by now. Adjust the seasoning before serving. Add more salt and pepper if needed. If you prefer a thicker sauce, bring the pan to high heat and boil till you achieve a thicker consistency.
Heat some oil/butter in a saucepan. Toss the cooked pasta in and spoon some sauce over. Mix gently and plate. Top with freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano.
*If you are preparing a large portion of this sauce intending to freeze it for future use, let the sauce cool completely first before keeping it in an airtight container/freezer bag. The sauce can be frozen for weeks.