04 December, 2011

Ragù Bolognese | David Leite

Marcella, in her inimitable fashion, offers the home cook plenty of suggestions to create an authentic Bolognese sauce recipe, the kind my grandmother would approve of. First, the more marbled the meat, the sweeter the ragù. The most desirable cut of beef is the neck portion of the chuck. You may have to call up and order it from your butcher. It’s also important to salt the meat as soon as it hits the pan; it extracts the juices and flavors the sauce. Last, use a heavy pot that retains heat. (I use my Le Creuset 5-quart Dutch oven.) Avoid a cast-iron pot, as the acid can interact with the metal and turn the sauce an unpleasant blech color. ~David Leite

Ragù Bolognese ingredients
Makes 4 cups
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
8 Tbsp unsalted butter (divided use)
1 cup chopped onion
1 1/3 cups chopped celery
1 1/3 cups cup chopped carrot
1.5-LB ground beef chuck, ground pork, and ground veal
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups whole milk
1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
2 cups dry white wine
3 cups reduced homemade tomato purée or canned imported Italian San Marzano tomatoes, crushed by hand, with their juice

For serving:
Warm, cooked and drained spaghetti
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Notes:  David says, "Rush this recipe, and you’ll miss its most important ingredient. Time." This recipe takes, " 6 hours, most of it unattended, except for making lazy eights with a wooden spoon."

Sauté the vegetables:  Heat the oil and 6 Tbsp of the butter in a heavy 5-quart over Medium heat until the butter melts and stops foaming. Drop in the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until it has become translucent, about 5 minutes.

Add the celery and carrot and cook for 2 minutes, stirring the vegetables to coat them well with the fat.

Cook the meats:  Add the ground meats, a generous pinch of salt, and a plenty of pepper. Crumble the meat with a wooden spoon, and stir well until the meats are no longer pink.

Add dairy layer:  Turn the heat to Low and pour in the milk. Simmer gently, stirring frequently, until it has cooked down completely, about 1 hour.

Add wine layer:  Stir in the nutmeg. Then, pour in the wine and let it simmer, stirring frequently, until it has evaporated, about 1 1/4 hours.

Add tomato layer:  Add the tomato purée or crushed tomatoes and stir thoroughly to coat everything well. When the tomato purée begins to bubble, turn down the heat so that the sauce cooks at the laziest of simmers, with just an intermittent bubble breaking through the surface.

Cook, uncovered, for 3 hours or more, stirring from time to time.

While the sauce is burbling away, it may start drying out somewhat, and the fat will separate from the meat. To keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pot and scorching, add 1/2 cup water as necessary; however, it’s crucial that by the time the sauce has finished simmering, the water should be completely evaporated, and the fat should separate from the sauce. 

Adjust seasoning:  Take a spoonful–or two. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Add remaining 2 Tbsp of butter to the hot pasta and toss with the sauce.

Serve with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano on the side.

As David Leite adapted from Marcella Hazan, The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking (New York, Knopf, 1992).

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