EPIC Ragu Bolognese


EPIC Ragù Bolognese

Intro Collage

A certain magic happens as the beef and aromatic vegetables slowly cook down with wine, tomato paste, and broth ~ Bon Appetit


Let’s get one thing clear before we begin…there is nothing quick about making a ragù {at least one worth eating}.  It is not the dinner you “whip up” or “throw together” on a busy weeknight…

Ragù is the definition of slow cooking. And it is also the quintessential comfort food…A ragù recipe can take anywhere from two to six hours, depending on how deeply flavored you want your meat sauce ~ and how traditional the recipe is.  ~  The Huffington Post

But, with that being said, you can be assured that your investment of time and effort will greatly pay off with a thick, deeply~rich, meaty sauce that will leave you craving more.  This ragù is a perfect project for a fall or winter afternoon, when the weather makes spending a few hours in a warm, cozy kitchen so very appealing.  That day, for me, was yesterday. A rare, middle-of-the-week oasis of time afforded me the opportunity to hide in the kitchen for the better part of a very wet day…


As the rain came down in sheets, I {armed with my iPad packed with a dozen or so podcasts and my favorite Pandora station…I resisted the very strong urge to start playing Christmas carols} chopped vegetables, blended tomatoes, browned meat and stirred…and stirred…and stirred…a bubbling pot of Italian perfection. Every corner of the house was filled with the perfume of the ragù slowly simmering on the stove.

What makes this ragù special is not the parts {a simple collection of ingredients}…


Well, there is one special ingredient…dried porcini mushrooms…the earthy flavor these add to the sauce is extraordinary and, I must admit, I added a bit more than the original recipe called for…


But, what really makes this sauce outstanding is the slow & repetitive process of “harvesting caramel” :

 …a relentless process of caramelizing as many single molecules in the pot as humanly possible, a repetitive motion between browning and deglazing until ultimately transforming a bunch of mundane ingredients into a…deeply rich and in~depth flavored brew…the “dolce du leche” in the realm of ragù.  ~  Mandy, Lady + Pups blog 

The precise execution of cooking in layers, nurturing the ingredients to their prime and making the most of their natural sugars, is what takes time and attention but, it is also the key factor in the success of the final sauce.  At every step of the process, each layer of ingredients…first the meat, and then the vegetables, herbs and tomato paste, followed by the gradual additions of milk…is cooked until all of the liquid has been evaporated thereby intensifying the flavors.  The browning {or caramelization} at the bottom of the pan, which occurs at each stage, is then “harvested” by the next dose of milk.  The process begins with a mix of meat and vegetables and ends with a luscious, brown sauce…

Ragu Progression Collage

 But, before we begin there are a few important notes to keep in mind…

*  It is important to choose the right pan for this job!  It should be flat~bottomed and wide with enough depth to hold quite a bit of sauce {but not too deep, otherwise steam will build up on the side of the pot and drip back into the mixture preventing it from browning properly}.  A wide, flat~bottomed pot provides enough surface area for browning.  I used my enamel~coated, cast~iron dutch oven and it worked beautifully.

*  Season as you go!  The repeated process of reducing the sauce concentrates the flavor at every step…you don’t want to end up with an overly salty sauce in the end.  Season the meats while they are cooking and then season again once the vegetables are added.  Adjust the seasoning as needed once the milk and tomatoes are added.

*  Texture is key! This ragù is not meant to be a chunky sauce but rather a meaty one with granules of beef, pork, and vegetables soaked in a rich sauce, loosely covering tender pasta.  In addition to the ground meats, the carrots, celery, onions and pancetta are best if given a spin {separately} in the food processor.  This finer-than-diced chop will contribute to the overall smoothness of the final sauce.  But, be careful here, don’t over-process to the point of mush.  Because each vegetable has a different texture {soft onions are processed much faster than hard carrots} each should be processed on its own avoiding over processing of any one ingredient.  Alternatively, if you are gifted in the use of a chef’ knife, try and achieve a fine mince when chopping your vegetables…

Carrot Celery Onion Collage

 Once the ingredients have been sliced, diced and blended, you are ready to start making ragù!


EPIC Ragu Bolognese
Serves 10
A ragu bolognese of EPIC proportions, both in time and flavor. A generous investment of time and effort go into this traditional Italian sauce but the payoff is a ragu to die for!
Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
5 hr 30 min
Total Time
6 hr
Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
5 hr 30 min
Total Time
6 hr
  1. 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  2. 1/2 cup finely diced pancetta {see notes below}
  3. 1 1/2 pounds fatty ground pork
  4. 1 1/2 pounds ground beef
  5. 1/2 cup dried porcini mushrooms, rinsed {see notes below}
  6. 8 cloves of garlic, pushed through a garlic press
  7. 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, finely minced {see notes below}
  8. 1 tablespoon rosemary needles, finely minced {see notes below}
  9. 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  10. 2 medium stalks of celery, finely minced {see notes below}
  11. 1 large yellow onion, finely minced {see notes below}
  12. 1 small carrot, finely minced {see notes below}
  13. 2 fresh bay leaves
  14. 1 can {6 oz.} tomato paste
  15. 1 small piece of Parmigiano rind
  16. 1 cup dry white wine
  17. 7 1/2 cups of whole milk, divided
  18. 2 {28 oz.} cans of peeled, whole tomatoes
  19. Coarse sea salt & freshly ground pepper
  20. Tagliatelle pasta {amount depends on how many people you are serving}
  21. Parmigiano cheese, freshly grated
  1. In a blender, puree the tomatoes, with their juices, until smooth and set aside.
  2. Place your pan over a medium flame and heat the olive oil. Add the pancetta and cook until slightly browned. Add the pork and beef along with a pinch each of salt and pepper. Cook until the meat has browned and all of the liquid in the pan has evaporated and a nice layer of browning {NOT burning} appears at the bottom of the pan.
  3. Add the porcini, garlic, thyme, rosemary and crushed red pepper, cooking until fragrant~about a minute. Add all of the minced vegetables {celery, onion, carrot}, bay leaves, tomato paste and Parmigiano rind and season again with a pinch each of salt and pepper. As the vegetables release their juices, scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon or spatula to loosen the browning/caramelization. Once again, continue to cook this way until ALL of the liquid has evaporated and a new layer of browning has formed at the bottom of the pan.
  4. Once all of the meat and vegetables have browned properly, add the wine and reduce it completely {all liquid has evaporated from the pan} allowing another new layer of browning to form. Add 1 1/2 cups of the milk to the pan, stirring to mix evenly with the ingredients in the pan. The milk will loosen the browning and you will scrape it off with your spoon/spatula to let it melt and become part of the sauce, then let it cook and the milk will completely evaporate and form another new layer of browning. Add another 1 1/2 cups of whole milk and repeat the process. At this point, rotating the pan over the flame will help promote an even browning a the bottom of the pan rather than in spots. Be sure to allow the browning to get deep and dark in color but be careful NOT to blacken/burn as this will impart a bitter taste on the sauce. Continue to harvest the caramel/browning in this manner adding ! !/2 cups of milk at a time {3 more additions}. After the last addition of milk, and the final browning, you should have a pot of meat sauce that is rich and deeply brown with intense flavor.
  5. Once the last/5th addition of whole milk has been added, reduced and browned add the pureed tomatoes. Season again with salt and pepper, stirring to evenly mix the ingredients and scrape the brownings on the bottom of the pan. Reduce the heat to medium~low and partially cover the pan with a lid {IT WILL SPLATTER!}. Allow the sauce to reduce by 1/3 to almost 1/2, stirring occasionally to prevent burning}.
  6. Prepare the tagliatelle according to package directions, drain and rinse {there is no need to reserve any of the pasta cooking liquid so discard}. Return the pasta to the pot it was cooked in {it should still be quite warm}. Add a generous amount of the ragu and toss until well~incorporated.
  7. Serve in individual bowls/plates with some freshly grated Parmigiano cheese on top.
  1. The celery, carrot, onion and pancetta should all be very finely minced. A food processor makes easy work of this, just be sure to process each ingredient separately. The thyme and rosemary leaves can be easily minced using a spice grinder. The dried porcini mushrooms should be placed in a sieve and rinsed to remove any impurities but there is no need to soak them.
  2. A wide, flat~bottomed pan with enough depth to hold several cups of sauce. An enameled, cast iron Dutch oven works well.
Adapted from Lady and Pups
Adapted from Lady and Pups
THE DINNER CONCIERGE http://thedinnerconcierge.com/


K Initial


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