When I visited Bologna, I was amazed by the fresh pasta dishes served at the restaurants I dined in. The signature past dish has to be the namesake, Ragu Bolognese. Some members of my family, despite being of Italian heritage, do not love tomato. Amazingly, this pasta dish only has a small amount of tomato paste that doesn’t really come through in the flavor. I was also surprised because it didn’t have garlic, which just about every dish I enjoyed seemed to have in plentiful amounts. The sauce is usually finished with some cream just before serving. I usually serve over fresh spaghetti, but you can also use ziti or linguini if you prefer.
1/3 cup Pancetta finely diced (about 2 – 3 ounces)
1T olive oil
1 cup onion finely chopped
½ cup carrot finely chopped
½ cup celery finely chopped
1T fresh rosemary chopped
1T fresh sage chopped
1 pound ground beef, pork, or veal or combination ( I use half beef, half pork)
½ cup finely chopped chicken livers (about 3 ounces) – sometimes I substitute chicken liver pate.
1 cup white wine
3T tomato paste
½ t freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
2 cups meat stock heated
1 cup cream or milk
Heat a Dutch oven or 5 qt saucepot over medium heat, add butter and olive oil, and sauté the pancetta softly until it is lightly browned. Add chopped onion, carrot, and celery and sauté until the vegetables are lightly browned. Add ground meats and brown them together with the other ingredients. Add the chopped chicken livers or scoop a couple of tablespoons of chicken liver pate to the sauce along with rosemary and sage and cook an additional 3 minutes. Add the wine to the sauce and cook until the liquid evaporates. Add tomato paste along with salt pepper, and nutmeg if desired to taste. Add the heated stock, and bring everything to a boil. Once the sauce is boiling, cover and turn the heat down to simmer. Cook for 2 hours stirring occasionally.
After 2 hours, remove the lid from the sauce, and let some of the liquid evaporate so that it is thickened. Just before serving add up to 1 cup of milk or cream to taste. The more cream you add, the milder the overall flavor of the sauce.
Place your cooked pasta in a pasta boil and ladle some of the ragu over the top. Toss to keep the pasta from sticking. Place on individual plates, and top with more of the ragu over the top of the pasta. Finish with freshly grated Reggiano Parmigiano cheese and fresh pepper.