Ragu bolognese, or simply ragù or bolognese sauce, is one of the most known recipes from Italy, but also one of the most abused. That’s why I believe you will find this article useful:
- to recognize a truely authentic bolognese sauce from a fake one;
- to learn how to make bolognese sauce at home and start eating like a real bolognese 🙂
Fake bolognese sauces
Why do I say this recipe is so abused. For two main reasons:
- it is not easy to find good ones abroad (I would say almost impossible, to be honest), but even in Italy;
- restaurants often serve it in the wrong way. I will never stress enough how in Bologna we will never serve spaghetti with ragù (and if some restaurants do, change place immediately!). Spaghetti with ragù don’t exist, and the real recipe from Bologna for spaghetti… is with a tuna based sauce! The reason is very simple: ragù requires a kind of pasta that is not smooth, otherwise it cannot stick to the pasta itself. Spaghetti are perfect for tomato sauce, for pesto alla genovese, for aglio e olio (garlic and oil.. and red hot chili pepper) but please forget them if you want to taste ragù.
How to make bolognese sauce at home
An authentic bolognese sauce is actually a quite simple recipe, it just takes… time! And one ingredient that can be tough to find abroad, but that I describe below.
When you will have made your ragu bolognese, you can put it into the freezer in small boxes and use it for quick but “soooo Italian” dinners with your guests. Amazing as a sauce for tagliatelle or gramigna, it can be used to prepare true bolognese lasagne. It will be great with almost any kind of pasta, but never smooth one, otherwise ragù will stay in the plate… just like with spaghetti.
But now let’s go with my step-by-step guide to your first authentic bolognese sauce!
Authentic bolognese sauce
- a knife
- a pot suitable to slow cooking
- a wooden spoon
- a mixer (if meat is not already minced)
- 1000 gr minced beef meat
- 150 gr ham I use ham from Tuscany, many use bacon instead
- 50 gr butter according to taste
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- half carrot
- half onion
- half celery stick
- 1/3 tube concentrated tomato paste Mutti is the best brand
- 1/2 glass red wine
- 1 pinch salt according to taste
- Prepare a soffritto gently frying for 10-15 minutes the chopped onion, carrot and celery in part of the butter and the extra virgin olive oil.
- Mince the ham (or bacon).
- When soffritto is ready, add the beef minced meat and and make it gently fry for about 40 minutes. Use the wooden spoon to stir, from time to time.
- Add the minced ham and make it gently fry for about 40 minutes.
- Spray with the red wine. Then add the concentrated tomato paste (see picture above for the quantity) and a pinch of salt, according to taste. Cover the pot and let it boil at very low heat for an additional 3- 3.5 hours.
- During this time, if you think the sauce is getting too dry, add some butter. The final result should be like in the picture.
- If you want a more vivid red color, add a little bit more, but always remember that bolognese ragù is not based on tomato (like the sauces from Southern Italy, e.g. Naples).
- The choice of every bolognese is Mutti (an historical brand from Parma) concentrated tomato paste, hope you can find it.
Suggested wine pairings
The perfect wine pairing for a pasta (e.g. tagliatelle) with bolognese sauce is a Sangiovese. For this pairing, see also the review of a lunch at Trattoria nonna Aurora. A good advice is always to pair food with a wine produced in the same area, so I suggest an excellent Sangiovese di Romagna (near Bologna).
Bolognese sauce FAQ
Bolognese sauce, or ragu bolognese or simply ragù, is made of minced beef meat, some pork meat (usually ham or bacon), a mix of vegetables (onion, celery, carrot), extra virgin olive oil, butter, concentrated tomato paste.
No, it is not a proper sauce for spaghetti. Appropriate pairings are with tagliatelle or maccheroni. It is a relevant ingredient in lasagne recipe. And yes, I know, everywhere you will find spaghetti alla bolognese.. but for us in Bologna it is a dish of spaghetti with tuna sauce, definitely not ragu! To deep dive this, I recommend reading about spaghetti bolognese here 🙂
As the name says, it comes from the ancient city of Bologna. Bologna, in northern Italy is famous for the most ancient University of whole Europe and for its porticoes. Our porticoes are now Unesco “world heritage site”. About this important event you can also read a post from one of my favorite and most authentically “bolognese” blogs.