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Cutting the fat on Marcella's Bolognese

I recently spent an afternoon making this wonderful sauce from Essentials of Italian Cooking. I followed Marcella's instructions to a T, using chuck, whole milk, oil and butter. Trouble is, a very small serving of the sauce actually made me sick because it was way too rich from the beef fat-olive oil- butter trifecta. Has anyone successfully lightened this recipe a bit and if so which route did you take (leaner beef? less butter?)? Again, it's not my normal M.O. to lighten recipes, but I'd like to enjoy the sauce without my stomach rebelling.

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  1. Coincidence. I just read the recipe for the first time last night, and my first thought was to be sure to trim the chuck of all fat before grinding. Her comments are actually a little vague on the issue, and I interpreted them as "don't use a lean MUSCLE, like rump or round". Chuck is well lubricated.

    So, thanks for your heads-up. I'll trim trim trim.

    I'm trying it for the first time, to see if the influence of milk is a "smoothing" as I hear.

    1. I haven't made this recipe, but it is my MO to lighten just about everything I make. I would recommend that you try cutting each of the fats down by a little bit, but keeping their ratio the same so that you don't change the actual flavor profile too much.

      Also, maybe this is obvious, but in true Italian cooking sauce is suppoed to kiss pasta rather than drowning it, and I think it's easy to pour too much on. If you're using a real Italian sauce recipe (which it sounds like you are) you might want to try dipping your noodles in with tongs and pulling them out with just however much sticks.

      1. This isn't really a dipping sauce-- too thick. I ate a little less than 1/3 c (recipe makes two cups and serves six, so that's about right). I think it was really the chuck, which she recommends-- too much beef fat. And that would be hard to cut down on just a little. Maybe I'll try a leaner beef and cut the butter and oil a smidge per your suggestion.

        1. I think you need all that fat for flavor while you're cooking it. Maybe the trick is to refrigerate it when it's done and scrape off the fat later.

          1 Reply
          1. re: yayadave

            You could definitely do this, because I refrigerated it for my lasagna and there was a definite layer of fat on top- of course, I just mixed it in! ;-) Actually, I accidentally used lean ground beef the other night and the sauce was still very rich and still had quite a bit of fat float to the top... so, I don't know?

          2. If you can make it a day ahead, put it in the ice box, and remove the congelled fat the next day.


            1 Reply
            1. re: stevuchan

              I think you should let it cool to room temp first, then go to the ice box--that way, I think, more of the fat will rise to the top. Also I think it's never a good idea to put hot stuff in the ice box--will warm everything else up and cause the cooling unit to work overtime.

            2. Make it in advance to allow the flavors to develop and remove the extra fat-- also remember to serve small portions.

              1. I am currently addicted to this sauce and have been making it weekly - sometimes doubled. I use the recipe from Classics vs. Essentials and it calls for 3tbs butter and 3tbs olive oil. I've had the same reaction to the amount of fat. The first few times I just skimmed as much as possible after I had finished cooking. The third or fourth time I cut it to 2 tbs of each without it diminishing the richness of the sauce but I still had to skim a lot of fat when it was done. I refigerate overnight and remove the majority of fat before freezing. I'm reluctant to cut it down much more as I think the fat during cooking is part of what makes it so good. You could try cutting it some more and see what happens. Also, if I don't grind my own chuck roast then I buy the 85% chuck.

                1. I made a Bolognese sauce recently and got it a little dry. I was able to pour off the grease by tilting the pot over the sink while holding the lid on. This might work even if the sauce is not so dry. The tomatoes get reduced and cook into the meat and thicken up, anyway. Just a thought.

                  1. just a thought.

                    Marcella serves her pasta with bolognese as part of an Italian multi-course meal. Hence, the amount of very rich sauce is very small.

                    1. I am down to my last container of this in the freezer and am very nervous.

                      After I make it I place in the fridge and wait for the fat to rise and solidify on the top of the pan. The I scrape off the amount of fat that might "hurt" me.

                      This sauce is way over the top good so I am careful on what I might do to screw it up.

                      1. I think skimming off the fat after it cooks is probably the way to go. I hesitated to lighten this up the first go 'round since it had gotten such rave reviews (deservedly so). This seems like a good way to get all the benefits of the slow, fatty cooking without the tummy upsetting aftermath. I'm sure everyone is different in this regard-- I really only ate a very small amount (1/3 c.-- exactly the serving Hazan recommends). Other guests ate more and were fine.