Ragù bologneseRagù bolognese

Continuing my Mario Batali kick, I made his meat ragu for a dinner party last night. I love meat sauce, and I was eager to try his meaty version made with veal, pork, and pancetta.

In the recipe’s sidebar, Mario writes that ragu isn’t tomato sauce, and that some Italians make it without any tomato at all. I can’t imagine what this would be like without it, but it would be very brown. Mario likes it to be a vomity-sounding “brownish pink.” I hope he doesn’t read this, because he’d be mad at how I had to change the recipe.

In terms of ingredients, the only challenge here is ground pancetta. Every grocery store in New York has the meat, but getting it ground is a bit more delicate, because it can easily involve a trip to two counters in the store, and the guy with the grinder might not be thrilled about grinding your paltry quarter pound of meat (especially if he’s just cleaned his grinder). But I stuck to my guns at Gourmet Garage and went home with freshly ground pancetta.

The preparation of this sauce went fine until an hour went by and it was looking uncomfortably dry. I added a bit of chicken stock to moisten it, but it wasn’t doing it, and my vegetables weren’t softening. I covered it for a bit, which moistened it for a while, but that dried out as well. To make a long story short, I ended up adding an entire 28-ounce can of tomatoes in stages and after much deliberation. It totally went against his wishes, but my pan must have been too wide to keep this ragu moist enough to use as a pasta sauce. Sorry, Mario.

I don’t have a picture of the finished product, because it’s easy to forget at a dinner party. Even with the can of tomatoes, it was decidedly brownish pink, as requested. And it tasted delicious over fresh fettuccine.

Ragù bolognese

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 onions, diced
  • 3 ribs celery, finely diced
  • 3 carrots, finely, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1 pound veal, ground
  • 1 pound pork, ground
  • 1/4 pound pancetta, ground
  • 6 ounces tomato paste
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

In a 6 to 8-quart saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions, celery, and garlic and sweat over medium heat until the vegetables are translucent but not browned, about 15 minutes. Turn up the heat, and add the ground meats. Cook, stirring to keep the meat from sticking together, until browned. Add the tomato paste, milk, wine, and thyme, and simmer over medium-low heat for 1 to 1 1/2 hours (I passed two hours). Season with salt and pepper, and remove from the heat.

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