Bolognese sauce (ragu') per granny Nonna Lu
Updated: Nov 28, 2020
This very popular sauce needs to be made really following the old tradition. No deviation is allowed if you want to make the real Italian thing, this recipe comes directly from my granny Nonna Lu (born in 1896, you cannot beat this for an old tradition!).
I will add 2 important tips here: first of all never ever add sugar. The acidity of the tomatoes is counteracted by a little bit of carrot, and not a full carrot either, otherwise the sauce will become sweet on you.
Second, never add water to the sauce, it needs to be thick! If using it to dress pasta, just mix a little bit of butter with the pasta as soon as it's cooked, then add the Bolognese; if using for lasagne, then the thickness will be perfect as is.
40 gr olive oil
700 gr mince meat (the leaner the better)
3 tins (400 gr each) of chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon of tomato paste
1 large onion
4 medium garlic cloves
1 medium carrot (or 1/2 if large)
1/2 celery stick
3 good slugs of Anchovies paste (or two drained fillets of anchovies preserved in olive oil)
Half of a nutmeg, grated (ok, I love nutmeg so I use a full one - it really depends on your taste: careful that too much will give a bitter taste)
A good few pinches of salt; ground pepper both Black and White if possible
A good few pinches of oregano
Start with the “soffritto”: add the minced garlic to the hot oil keeping in mind that the length of time between the garlic becoming golden, and you adding another ingredient should not be longer than 5-10 seconds: no joke; the garlic will otherwise will change from golden to brown and the full dish will acquire an unpalatable bitter taste. If that does happen, it is absolutely worth your while to start from scratch right at this point, rather than to proceed hoping that the bitterness will get hidden by other flavours: it won’t.
Add the onion, carrot and celery stick (all finely chopped but not minced) to the garlic. Wait until the vegetables become soft but not brown, then add the anchovies paste and stir everything very well (if using anchovies fillets, make sure you break them down with a spoon). Trust me, it won't taste "fishy" but it will add much more depth than just salt.
Add the mince meat and break it down very well with your wooden spoon once in the pot. Make sure you continue to stir and break it down while it's cooking so that there are no lumps left.
It will need to look like this:
Add the tinned tomatoes at this point, and stir it thoroughly (add also half a tomato tin of water, this is the only water you'll use: TIP use that quantity of water to rinse all your empty tins, pouring the water into one can then pour it into the other can, and so on. The water will gather the remainder of your tomatoes from the tins). Add the oregano and half of the grated nutmeg. Add your tablespoon of tomato paste.
Stir very well, then reduce the heat so that it will be simmering really slowly – the lid must be tight as you want the sauce to mature without loosing any vapour. Stir every 10-15 mins or so and let it cook for 2 hours or more - remember to stir it at regular intervals. After 2 hours if it's not sufficiently thickened move the lid a little so that the vapour can get out, it will take only a few mins to complete.
When the sauce is ready it will have changed colour to a dark red/orange/brown. Add the ground pepper at this point, then taste for salt and for nutmeg so you can add them if needed. Stir well and take it off the hob to rest (30 mins if you're in a hurry, or as long as a full day as it’s a sauce that improves with time; if you wait longer than half a day, place the sauce in the fridge as soon as it reaches room temperature, and place it covered so that it will not absorb any smell).