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The BEST Bolognese

Updated: Apr 9, 2019

Sunday Gravy: even though I’m not Italian, I’ve embraced this ritual wholeheartedly! There is nothing more comforting than stirring a pot of beefy red sauce for hours on a lazy Sunday. I've been making this amazing bolognese from the venerated cookbook author Marcella Hazan for years now and it is THE BEST! It's actually a really simple, straightforward recipe consisting of some butter, onions, carrots, celery, beef, milk and tomatoes. These simple ingredients, however, evolve into a deeply robust sauce after they've cooked slowly for a few hours over low heat. This is authentic Italian cooking at it's finest: rustic yet refined, simple yet complex, decadent yet delicate. The secret to this sauce, in my opinion, is to patiently take the time to complete each step before moving on to the next- it requires some TLC, but it's so worth it! Letting the milk fully evaporate before adding the wine and then allowing the wine to completely reduce before stirring in the tomatoes gives the bolognese a rich depth of flavor that you wouldn't be able to replicate by dumping everything in to the pot all at once. It also takes some muscle- your spoon stirring muscles to be specific. This isn't a pot you want to walk away from for too long- I end up stirring in at least two cups of water to the sauce as it simmers in order to keep it from drying out. Stirring frequently also helps to keep the fat from separating from the sauce (which will happen inevitably, but by the end of cooking, everything will be fully incorporated, smooth and velvety). Toss this up with some eggy pappardelle or al dente spaghetti- you will be so pleased with your bowl of pasta perfection! Add a simple salad and a glass of Chianti on the side and you'll feel like you've been transported to an Italian nonna's kitchen. Serve this on Sunday (or any day!)- I promise it will become your new favorite bolognese recipe as well!


prep time: 15 min. cook time: ~3-1/2 hrs. serves: 4-6 (makes about two heaping cups of sauce)


1 cup onion, small dice

3/4 cup carrot, small dice

3/4 cup celery, small dice

4 tbsp butter (divided)

1 tbsp olive oil

1 lb ground beef chuck

salt and pepper

1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

1 cup whole milk

1 cup dry white wine

1-1/2 cup whole peeled canned tomatoes with juice, crushed by hand

1 lb pasta of your choice

grated parmigiano reggiano, for serving



Heat the olive oil and 3 tbsp of butter over medium in a large Dutch oven or heavy pot. Add the onion and cook until it's beginning to soften, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add in the carrot and celery and sauté another 3 minutes with the onion, stirring as they cook. Next, add in the ground beef with about 1 tsp of salt and 1/4 tsp ground black pepper. Break the meat up with a wooden spoon and cook until it is no longer pink. Pour in the milk and reduce heat to a gentle simmer- allow milk to completely evaporate (10-15 minutes). Grate in the nutmeg and stir. Add the wine and cook until it has fully reduced- another 8-10 minutes or so. Once the wine has evaporated, add the tomatoes and stir everything to combine. Lower the heat as far as it will go and cook the sauce very gently uncovered for 3 hours or more. Add 1/2 cup of water as needed if the sauce seems to be drying out. Give the sauce a good stir often to keep the fat incorporated. At the end of cooking, check for seasoning and make sure that all the water has evaporated. Toss the bolognese with the cooked pasta and remaining tbsp of butter. Serve in big bowls with grated parmigiano on top. Buono apetito!

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