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Ragu bolognese - question

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Marcella Hazan's recipe for ragu bolognese calls for a cup of milk, added after you've sauteed off the meat, and then simmered until the milk has evaporated. This is then followed by the more usual cup of wine. So, why milk? I know liver is often simmered in milk to remove impurities and bitterness. Is it for similar reasons here?

Also, what secret (usually terribly inauthentic) ingredients do you add to your ragu?

Everyone seems to have some. Mine often include some of the following:
tomato paste, anchovy paste, worchester sauce, soy sauce, rehydrated, minced shitakes (and soaking liquid), smoked salt, chopped mushrooms, minced bockwurst, minced bacon.

Interested to hear what other hounds get up to...

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  1. Here is her answer from her recipe:

    "Cook the meat in milk before adding wine and tomatoes to protect it from the acidic bite of the latter."

    I read her recipe, it does sound different, but people rave about it, so I think I would try her version at least once!

    1. I believe the lactic acid in the milk also tenderizes the meat, hence the loving and painstakingly slow process in her recipe. If this is your first time making here bolognese, follow it like gospel. I say this as a can't-help-myself improvisor when cooking.
      The ONLY thing I did was use a tad more meat so the bolognese could suffice as a main course. Her's in used as a primi, I think.
      The tagliatelle is key too. If not making it fresh, buy a nice dried egg tagliatelle. I bought 2 boxes from an Italian store, which cooked in 2 minutes.
      I agree with Hazan's explanation above too. There are times when I want the just splashed in taste of white wine (like say with garlic, evoo and parm). But not this. This, is sublime.

      4 Replies
      1. re: monavano

        Thanks guys! I actually (gasp) don't have her bible, but got the recipe, paraphrased, off the web. I know, I know... it's on the list. The very long got-to-have list. It's nice to hear her explanation. I usually head off any tomato acidity with a teaspoonful of sugar, so it will be interesting to compare. It's simmering on the stove right now. Smells marvellous...

        1. re: Gooseberry

          Do report back! I'll be checking back to hear your testimony ;)

          1. re: monavano

            I feel like I can't honestly give feedback on the Hazan recipe, because (as always) I couldn't help myself, ended up fiddling and adding things, etc. I know, I know - I need to stick to the recipe as written the first time I make a Hazan dish, to appreciate the glory that is Hazan food. Sigh...

            Good news is, the only-part-Hazan ragu was lovely. I think cooking the meat for three hours is the key - all the muscle fibres relax and melt into the sauce. I got my butcher to put the meat through the mincer for me (rather than buying old mince), but next time I'm tempted to mince by hand some of the meat if I'm feeling energetic, for some variety in texture. I'm already a big fan of slow-braised meat, deboned and then tossed with pasta (lamb shanks, oxtail, etc) because I find the texture more interesting than mince.

            Thanks for the comments, everyone.

            1. re: Gooseberry

              I've followed the Hazan recipe like gospel about 25 times, and I cannot bring myself to modify it at all. It's that good, and I'm usually an incurable fiddler. That cookbook is absolutely amazing, I use it more than almost any other book I have.

              Once you have it, you might also try her Spinach Lasagna that's based on this Bolognese. Make the fresh spinach pasta, and with this sauce and gobs of Hazan's wonderful Bechamel sauce, you've got a dish that your guests will remember! Mmm. Just made a big vat of it this afternoon.

      2. I follow that the milk-first order, and would add that, because milk takes longer to simmer off than wine or stock, more flavor is drawn from the meat in the process. I've tried both orders of reduction, and milk-first is better. My inauthentic addition to ragu bolognese is tomato paste, but nothing else, because tomato is merely an accent and I think the paste gets that note in with less acidic liquid (and apparently a number of Italian chefs agree with that inauthentic approach). Meat is the focus and nothing should compete with it: beef/pork/veal. Three reductions (milk, wine, stock, then add tomato paste). Nooooo mushrooms (I love them, but they conflict with a well-reduced ragu's balance - that would also apply to anchovy/soy-based sauces). Would not want any smoked flavors in a ragu bolognese; another off-balance. Do not use too much carrot; that's one of the more common mistakes. Ground or minced hanger steak would be very authentic...

        2 Replies
        1. re: Karl S

          I think Batali puts a little tomato paste into his ragu bolgonese, but maybe I'm wrong.

          1. re: ccferg

            Batali adds a little bit of tomato paste but no tomatoes. And he does not cook down the wine and milk before leaving it to simmer and develop. His recipe also includes ground or minced pancetta with pork and veal.

        2. Secret ingredient? star anise

          1. When Cooks Illustrated, this is at least 5 years ago, did their multiple test/ultimate solution version of ragu, the recipe they came up with was only teaspoons away from Hazan's. She's right, she's almost always right. Her batting average is better than Julia Child's. Yeah, I said it.

            That said I make a duck ragu that kills. Not the least bit authentic but no one seems to mind.

            27 Replies
            1. re: inuksuk

              So do you share the recipe for "Duck Ragu That Kills?" 'Cause I'd like to have it! I've looked up a few that are related to polenta, but they seemed to be not interesting for duck.

              1. re: yayadave

                Would that I could. It is a recipe that I clipped from an old NYTimes. I have it, I make it but I do not own in. I've never changed it enough that if I were to repeat it here I would not be violating all sorts of copyright laws and, I'm pretty certain, Chowhound's own rules.

                1. re: inuksuk

                  According to the chowhound rules, you can post the recipe. The ingredients are not under copyright protection but the verbatim instructions are protected. But, you can paraphrase the instructions and it will be fine.

                  Here is the excert from the "Guidelines for Posting Recipes" as well as the link to the source.

                  http://www.chowhound.com/topics/406906

                  "Ingredient lists don't fall under copyright protection, so you're welcome to repost those verbatim. The instructions and any intro paragraphs are covered under copyright protection; these you should paraphrase in your own words. We will be obliged to remove posts containing recipes copied verbatim from published sources, even if you credit the source."

                  1. re: inuksuk

                    Does it look anything like this?
                    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/12/mag...

                    (One of the easiest ways to post a recipe you got off of the internet is to just post the link.)

                  2. re: yayadave

                    There's a good recipe for duck ragu included in this article from the LA Times which also includes Hazan's recipe and a lot of info about ragus in general, primarily about how they differ regionally throughout Italy.
                    Also how much American versions are different from anything in the Old Country. http://www.latimes.com/features/print...

                    1. re: MakingSense

                      Thanks for that. It is much appreciated and is already filed. It may be the "go to" answer to any future ragu questions that arise on these boards.

                      1. re: yayadave

                        Thank you for the recipe...I have a question, do you measure the 1 1/2 cups of tomatoes before or after they are chopped?

                        1. re: Janet from Richmond

                          Just speaking from general recipe writing perspective, you'd measure afterwards.

                          1. re: ccbweb

                            Thanks. Now you know why I eat out as often as I do <g>. When I cook I need "exact" instructions. I

                            1. re: Janet from Richmond

                              Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the very, very good. When you use canned tomatoes, there isn't that much difference between the whole tomatoes out of the can and the squished up ones that you throw into the pan. Since you cook the ragu for a pretty long time, it's not even necessary to chop them. They'll just melt into the sauce.
                              If you use 2 cups before squishing, no big deal. Now 3 cups, that would make a difference...

                      2. re: MakingSense

                        reviving an old thread. this link is long broken and i cannot find the recipe. would someone kindly post the recipe for the duck ragu?

                        1. re: redgirl

                          I just tried the LA Times link and it came through. If you read this (3 years later) try it again...

                    2. re: inuksuk

                      Haven't made Marcella's but have been making Cook's for (I guess) at least 5 years and we love it. The time saver is reducing the wine to 2 tablespoons before adding it to the sauce.

                      1. re: inuksuk

                        CI just published a new ragu alla Bolognese recipe - http://www.cooksillustrated.com/recip... No dairy at all, and several "inauthentic" ingredients, most notably sage and mortadella (although the mortadella doesn't surprise me as much as the sage does). Chicken livers, too, and a pretty generous number.

                        Their old recipe is indeed close to Hazan's recipe - http://www.cooksillustrated.com/recip...

                        Those links may not work if you don't subscribe to CI.

                        1. re: biondanonima

                          Could you list the ingredients and paraphrase any specific order of cooking?

                          The livers are a classic variation. The sage indeed is interesting.

                          1. re: Karl S

                            Sure, here you go:

                            1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
                            1 cup beef broth
                            8 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
                            1 onion , chopped coarse
                            1 large carrot , peeled and chopped coarse
                            1 celery rib , chopped coarse
                            4 ounces pancetta , chopped fine
                            4 ounces mortadella , chopped
                            6 ounces chicken livers , trimmed
                            3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
                            3/4 pound 85 percent lean ground beef
                            3/4 pound ground veal
                            3/4 pound ground pork
                            3 tablespoons minced fresh sage
                            1(6-ounce) can tomato paste
                            2 cups dry red wine
                            Salt and pepper

                            Combine broths with gelatin to allow gelatin to bloom, set aside. Process vegetables in a food processor until finely chopped, set aside. Ditto the mortadella and pancetta (together). Whiz the chicken livers in the food processor until pureed and set aside.

                            Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven and add the beef, pork and veal - saute until all juices have evaporated and meat starts to sizzle. Add the pancetta/mortadella mixture and the sage and cook until the pancetta has become translucent (careful not to burn your fond). Add the chopped veg and cook until soft, stirring constantly. Add the tomato paste and cook for a few minutes, until the paste is rust-colored.

                            Add the wine and scrape up the fond, and simmer until things thicken up. Add the stock and cook at a bare simmer for 1.5 hours or so, until the sauce is very thick. Stir in the pureed chicken livers, bring the sauce back to a boil and then remove immediately from the heat. Season to taste.

                            I thought the technique of pureeing the chicken livers and adding them just at the end was interesting. Also, the omission of dairy is somewhat unusual. Please report back if you try this one - I'm not sure I can get away with it, as my husband is vehemently anti-chicken liver!

                            1. re: biondanonima

                              Thanks for this. It's interesting. They finesse the mouthfeel issue of having real stock/broth and dairy with the use of the gelatin. The amount of wine seems a lot to me, but it's designed to mask the livery overtones of the livers, it would seem.

                              I have to say that this is only a 50% savings in time over a more classic version, and not any less work (which is becoming a hallmark of CI's approach in recent years).

                              1. re: Karl S

                                Yeah, I find that CI's recipes are rarely about less work - they tend to involve a lot more steps (not to mention dirty dishes) than other recipes for the same dish. However, I do find that 9 times out of 10, their recipes are better, largely because they tend to call for flavors to be reduced and intensified in a way that most home recipes don't. This particular recipe wasn't meant as a time saver (they have another one that they call "Weeknight" bolognese that fits that bill) - this is their "ultimate" version.

                                Oddly enough, they do talk about the use of broth+gelatin in the related article (saying that the gelatin is included to mimic the use of homemade broth), but although they say something like "would we have to leave out the dairy?" in a tag line, they don't actually say why they did so in the article. Having just made a version with a LOT of dairy (a cup of whole milk and half a cup of cream), I'm guessing they felt that the inclusion of dairy fat dulled the flavors a bit - I know it did in the Splendid Table recipe. I think the milk was fine - it was the cream that was just overkill.

                                1. re: biondanonima

                                  Milk is traditional; cream not so much, precisely for that reason. The milk reduction also provides other things.

                                  A ragu, of course, is all about reduction.

                                  1. re: Karl S

                                    I really appreciated this when I made Hazan's bolognese for the first time. It was a revelation.
                                    That said, I used her method with ground turkey to be healthier, and it was also delicious.

                          2. re: biondanonima

                            You have made this?

                            1. re: yayadave

                              The new one from Cook's Illustrated? No, I haven't - I just saw it in the magazine this month. I am partial to Mario Batali's recipe from the Food Network: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ma...

                              I did also just make the Classic Ragu recipe from the Splendid Table, but I found it WAY too rich and unbalanced. Too much pork fat and dairy just threw it all out of whack and made it very one note.

                              1. re: biondanonima

                                biondanonima: "I am partial to Mario Batali's recipe from the Food Network: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ma..."

                                Does the pancetta melt completely into the sauce, or do you end up with chewable bits of fat like in the SPLENDID TABLE ragu?

                                1. re: Jay F

                                  Because the pancetta or bacon is ground (or food processed to a paste), it melts completely into the sauce, no weird chunks. I generally put the pancetta paste into the oil and butter mixture first to let it render a bit of its fat before adding the vegetables instead of adding it along with the other ground meats as he calls for, but the first time I made it I did it according to his instructions and it was still excellent, no chunky weirdness.

                                  1. re: biondanonima

                                    Good. I was thinking I'd do the exact same things (Cuisinart it, put it in before veg) with the pancetta.

                                    1. re: Jay F

                                      Let me know what you think - we love it. BTW, I use ground beef instead of ground veal usually, but the results are good either way.

                                      He has another recipe posted on the Food Network that calls for twice as much veg and tomato paste (and a LOT more garlic) to the same amount of meat: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ma... I haven't tried this one, but I would worry that it would be too vegetal and tomato-y, as the one I linked above was perfection to my palate. I also think the inclusion of thyme is unnecessary.

                                      1. re: biondanonima

                                        The purpose of the veal is to provide the gelatinous mouthfeel and glazing ability. I found it curious that CI needed it when it was using gelatin outright. The pork is for sweetness.

                                        One thing the CI recipe gets right is not to use too much vegetables - they are only there as a foundation, not as a feature. So your worries are correct on that score.

                        2. When I get around to making Hazan's bolognese, I know I won't be able to resist adding garlic and fresh basil.

                          11 Replies
                          1. re: walker

                            Do Hazan the favor of resisting it the first time you make it. Because if you don't resist, you won't be making Hazan's fabled recipe; strong flavors like garlic and basil completely throw off the point of the dish. Mind you, I love both flavors; but adding them is like adding them to pate de foie gras...they change the dish fundamentally. Make hers first, then yours.

                            1. re: Karl S

                              I strongly agree with this. MH's recipes are some of the very few I tend not to improvise with and never the first time. And the rare times I do deviate later it is generally to add just a bit more or less of an ingredient in the recipe as opposed to adding something that is not called for at all. Her bolognese is perfection. And I add the milk first as well.

                              1. re: Karl S

                                I agree with Karl and Queenie here as well.

                                In my experience with Marcella's recipes, I've usually found them to be somewhat different than most other Italian cooks' recipes so, from my perspective, a bit non-intuitive. Hence I follow them to the letter and am never disappointed.

                                A note about Bolognese, though. On Lidia's show where she makes her version of Bolognese (which I believe does not use the milk but does incorporate the wine) she emphasizes to make sure the liquid completely evaporates from the meat before adding the wine, an emphasis which the written recipe in her book ignores. When I use Marcella's recipe, I also do the same thing with the milk as the wine. Waiting for the water released from the meat to evaporate, the milk liquids to evaporate and the wine's liquid to evaporate before taking each subsequent step makes a world of difference. Well worth the extra patience in making this day long recipe.

                                1. re: kevine

                                  Kevine,
                                  any chance you could post both Marcella's and Lidia's versions? My hubby loves the stuff, but so far I have not found a really good receipe.

                                  1. re: Barbarella

                                    Lidia has hers on her Lidia's Italy web site. Not sure if Marcella's is posted anywhere.

                                    The idea in main is to saute' a soffrito (a mixture of chopped onion, carrots, celery) in a dutch oven over a medium to medium high heat.

                                    Once it is all pretty translucent, I make a space for ground veal and ground pork and cook until all the liquid given off by the meat has been reduced.

                                    I find it really helps to be patient as it's best to get the meat to the point before it burns but there really is no liquid left. The meat by this point has taken on kind of a sheen.

                                    I then add some milk and again let the liquid of the milk reduce until the milk solids have really absorbed into the meat. Then I do the same thing again with some white wine. Again patience and vigilence is key.

                                    Once all the wine is reduced, then I stir in some tomato paste and let it carmelize a bit. Finally I add in a can or two of whole tomatoes by squeezing them into the oven and let the whole thing stew uncovered (or very slightly covered) for at least 3 hours, adding water if it dries out at all meanwhile. Note that this really isn't a tomato sauce with meat, it's a meat gravy with tomato flavoring.

                                    When it's finally done, just spoon over pasta (something that will hold the sauce, like penne or rigatoni) and serve. And of course it really improves in flavor as a leftover the next couple of days.

                                    HTH and any comments by others greatly appreciated.

                                    1. re: Barbarella

                                      See my posting above in response to yayadave request for the Duck Ragu. The LA Times article link has Marcella Hazan's recipe plus some others as part of a really interesting article about regional ragus.

                                      Finding a good recipe is hard because the sauces we are accustomed to in the US are so different from the ragus in Italy.

                                      1. re: MakingSense

                                        Thanks for the link MakingSense!

                                        :-)

                                        1. re: MakingSense

                                          Buford in “Heat” tells of making ragu alla Medici in Italy. Meat beyond its “sell by” date and the usual aromatics were ground up. They put it all in a big pot on a big burner on the floor and gave him a big paddle and he stirred it for 6 hours. Some where in the middle they added some watery tomato sauce. Eventually it looked like sand and satisfied all the tasters. Then they added seasonings. Buford mentions lemon zest, cinnamon, coriander, nutmeg, and cloves. At this point they added enough wine to make it soupy. He doesn’t say how much longer he had to stir, because at that point in his tale he got side tracked when his apron caught fire. Yep, it’s different in Italy.

                                        2. re: Barbarella

                                          Marcella's is indeed on line, at http://www.dolcevita.com/cuisine/reci...

                                    2. re: walker

                                      Don't do it; I tell you. The ragu has a distinct flavour and you will mess it up. Her recipe is fabulous. I follow it exactly. I may have to make some; haven't done it in a while.

                                      I have two of her books and adore both; I rarely change her recipes.

                                      1. re: itryalot

                                        MOre to the point: the point of taking all that time to do three gradual reductions (it takes 2-3+ hours) is to get a certain sublime texture and subtle balance of flavors of a meat-based mixture. Strong flavors just miss the point of the dish entirely, and would make it a waste of time. Save the strong flavors for more quickly cooked sauces; they will be much more appropriate in that context. But why anyone would want to spend hours creating such a subtle sauce and then do that is a mystery to me; well, actually, not such a mystery - many Americans have developed a strong preference for bold flavors and don't appreciate subtle things like a proper ragu anymore. Why? Well, it's a combination of the fact that many of our own ingredients tend to be full-flavored (our fruits, our wines, our use of spices), and then we have the palate-coarsening effect of habituation to processed foods.

                                    3. I use the Dean and Deluca recipe which has grated carrots and finely chopped chicken livers in it. I think they both add richness and flavor to the bolgnese.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: emilief

                                        I've made Hazan's recipe many times and it is the best. I have the Duck Rago recipe from the NY Times. It's one of Mario Batali's from his restaurant Lupa. Soon as I dig it out, I;ll post.

                                      2. How does one improve on a recipe that when served only brings smiles and thank yous from people at the table. jfood has made this recipe numerous times and is completely anal compulsive about the process. The results speak for themselves. This is just the best bolognese jfood has ever eaten. others may like bolder, spicier, more basil or garlic or any other variations, but for the beauty of the bolognese, this is the standard.

                                        also make a double batch and freeze. on those long days when you are looking for a hug from dinner, defrosting and eating makes the long day turn into a subtle evening.

                                        1. I have never made bolognese before but had a hankering for it. So yesterday afternoon, I made Marcella Hazan's version and followed it precisely. It tasted great, but I have 2 questions:

                                          I expected the finished product to be more "tomato-y" if that makes sense. I guess, in other words, it was less "saucy" than I expected. Is this how it should be?

                                          Also, the recipe calls for "San Marzano tomatoes, cut up in their juice" (something like that -- I don't have the recipe in front of me now). I bought San Marzano tomaotes, Diced, with juice. Should I have bought Diced or Crushed?

                                          Don't get me wrong, it tasted delicious and I stuck some in the freezer, which will be great to have later on, but I just want to check with the expert Chowhounds!

                                          Thanks.

                                          13 Replies
                                          1. re: valerie

                                            I do think that is how it should be. I actually prefer the whole SM tomatoes, and dicing them up myself - don't know why, but I seem to get better flavour w/ those.

                                            1. re: MMRuth

                                              Me too, for some reason the diced canned tomatoes definitely deliver inferior flavor, IMHO. I love Muir Glen whole tomatoes, or San Marzanos if you can find real ones (from Italy, not California)!

                                              1. re: eastvillgirl

                                                For some reason, the diced/crushed have more of a "tinned" flavor, though I have no idea why!

                                            2. re: valerie

                                              According to Mario Batali (I go back and forth between his Ragu Bolognese recipe in Molto Italiano and Marcella's), a ragu is by no means a tomato sauce. His is even less tomato-ey than Marcella's recipe, with just a bit of tomato paste.

                                              On the tomato question, I always buy whole San Marzano tomatoes or Muir Glen whole plum tomatoes, pour them into a metal bowl and crush them with my hands before adding them to the sauce.

                                              1. re: Megiac

                                                I just made both the Hazan recipe and a Batali recipe (the one from the Food Network site - there are several variations floating around, although they're all pretty similar) and forced myself to follow them to the letter. My husband and I both preferred the Batali version, albeit by a very narrow margin. He felt that the nutmeg was a bit too strong in the Hazan version, and I felt that the tomatoes and wine added a brighter acidity and fresh flavor that while delicious, was not what I really wanted in a Bolognese. I might like it better in a lasagne, though, since the bechamel sauce might mute some of the brightness (and might over-mute the already subtle Batali sauce).

                                                The Batali recipe I used called for 1c. each milk and wine plus a "half a tube" of tomato paste to 2 lbs of meat, whereas the Hazan version calls for 1c. each milk and wine and 1.5c of tomatoes to less than a pound of meat, so it makes sense that her recipe would have more acidity. BTW, I didn't have tubes of tomato paste and I wasn't sure how big they usually are, so I used about 3 oz. from a can, which was just about right for my taste. The other major difference is in the technique - Batali's recipe calls for just dumping in the wine and milk and tomato all together once the meat is cooked as opposed to Hazan's multi-step reductions. It's a much less labor intensive approach and IMO works beautifully. After 3 hours of cooking, I couldn't tell the difference in texture between the two.

                                                I made fresh egg tagliatelle to go with the sauces and it was perfect, although next time I will not go quite so thin on my pasta roller. I use the kitchenaid attachment and took it down to a 7 - I'll stick with a 6 next time. Still, amazing. Trying to decide whether to make lasagne Bolognese with the leftovers!!!!!!

                                                1. re: biondanonima

                                                  You just made me soooo hungary.

                                                  1. re: biondanonima

                                                    Having just made Rossetto Kasper's recipe from the Splendid Table, I still think Mario is the winner. RK's recipe was much too rich - too porky and too much dairy. This is THE ONE: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ma...

                                                2. re: valerie

                                                  Great, thanks. Will definitely make it again but next time I will buy whole tomatoes.

                                                  1. re: valerie

                                                    Lydia uses the canned whole San Marzano tomatoes and pours into a bowl and with hands she removes the hard stem end and some of the seeds. It takes time but this is how I do it now. I've been told you need to look for cans that have D.O.P. on the label. The Italian market I shop at has 3 different brands of these.

                                                  2. re: valerie

                                                    Ragu bolognese is *not* a tomato sauce at all. It is a meat sauce, usually with three sequential slow reductions (dairy, wine and then broth). Tomatoes are merely used as a slight condiment. If you notice the tomatoes, they are out of balance.

                                                    You should have bought whole tomatoes, neither diced nor crushed, and cut them yourself. Very preferably ones that are *not* canned with tomato puree as the liquid.

                                                    1. re: Karl S

                                                      Karl - do you have any idea *why* the whole ones taste better than the diced or canned ones - even in the same brand? Thank you.

                                                      1. re: MMRuth

                                                        I'm not Karl, but if I may, part of the reason is simply that the tomatoes that are in good enough condidtion to be canned whole are better than the ones that have to have bad spots taken off them. Those are the ones that wind up chopped up or crushed.

                                                        1. re: inuksuk

                                                          Thank you - and that makes perfect sense to me!

                                                  3. Found this thread after debating with a friend -- we apparently have two different editions of the Hazan cookbook and the order of reduction is different in each. Mine is the 1973 Harper's Magazines 'The Classic Italian Cookbook' -- in that one, the Bolognese recipe order is a sofrito first (onions, carrots), then add the beef, then wine first (presumably to deglaze the pan and get a base going), then milk + nutmeg, then tomatoes. I find this yields an incredible creamy sauce and does reduce the acidity of the tomatoes by a great deal.

                                                    My only modification is using 35% heavy cream in place of milk -- adding a knob of butter sometimes -- occasionally substituting red wine for white - and if it's lacking a touch of sweetness, a drizzle of honey and a pinch of sea salt at the finish. I use this as a lasagna sauce.

                                                    For vegetarians, this recipe works really well with Yves Veggie Ground Round -- in fact I've had some people swear it was real beef in the sauce ;) Saves on the browning time as well.

                                                    3 Replies
                                                    1. re: ajkandy

                                                      when is it that your friend adds the yves ground?

                                                      1. re: ajkandy

                                                        "...two different editions of the Hazan cookbook and the order of reduction is different in each. Mine is the 1973 Harper's Magazines 'The Classic Italian Cookbook' -- in that one, the Bolognese recipe order is a sofrito first (onions, carrots), then add the beef, then wine first (presumably to deglaze the pan and get a base going), then milk + nutmeg, then tomatoes."

                                                        I have the February 1980 Knopf edition (tenth printing), in which the order is also wine, milk/nutmeg, tomatoes.

                                                        1. re: ajkandy

                                                          Where can I find this "Yves Veggie Ground Round? I am in New Jersey, is this frozen?

                                                        2. I'm new to this site and just had to jump in with my Marcella bolognese story: I made this for the first time in 1980 when I lived in Spain and didn't yet know how to cook much. My friends and I had a bare-bones kitchen, no FP, no pasta roller, not even a rolling pin - so we made this top to bottom by hand: picked the spinach, stemmed it, rolled out the pasta with a full (at the start, anyway) wine bottle, minced the beef... of course it took all day, but what a blast - and it was the most delicious creation. I think it made real cooks of us all. I make this often now, with my shiny FP, knives, and sleek pasta machine, and people just rave about it, but every once in awhile I go back and do it the old way. Somehow it's better.

                                                          1. I myself make a bolognese based on my Mom's recipe, but have added a few more traditional touches. Such as adding the cream and letting cook in. I use 80/20 meat too, because I think it adds more flavor, but I drain the meat of some of the fat. Something about the fat really adds some flavor and draining it after it's cooked makes it less fatty, something I learned from my Mom. I have used San Marzano tomatoes as well as my Mom's traditional 6 in 1 tomatoes. And my bolognese is fairly saucey, because that's what I like! Fortunately my BF loves my sauce, even though he's not much of a pasta lover, so I get to make this quite often. Making this always reminds me of her, it's really one of my comfort dishes.

                                                            There was an interesting article from a couple of years ago about "true" bolognese. Even then they listed 6 recipes! http://www.saveur.com/article/Kitchen.... Also, this is what the Accademia Italiana della Cucina has determined to be the "Classic" version http://www.saveur.com/article/Recipes.... What i came away with from the article was that everyone has their own version, but some are more traditional than others. Since my recipe is from my Mom, I'm going to call it traditional, even if she was Scots-Canadian ;) And really it's quite close to many of the recipes out there, albeit more saucey because that's how I always requested it!

                                                            1. The book I have of hers says to add the wine and let evaporate before adding the milk. I've also read it the other way around. I did wine, then, milk....it's been simmering for 3 1/2 hours and I don't know what to think. It tastes pretty good, but, I'm by no means floored. There is a thin layer of grease/fat that I'm not sure is supposed to be there. Followed the recipe to a T, other than multiplying everything x's 3 for a triple batch.

                                                              14 Replies
                                                              1. re: JErix

                                                                I’ve made Hazan’s Bolognese a dozen times at least and I still think it’s overrated. To me it’s never had the richness that makes a good ragù amazing. The part about the milk protecting the beef just sounds like the kind of b.s. thing people like to say about food, I’ve never seen any reason to believe it’s actually true.

                                                                1. re: cmonsour

                                                                  What do you make instead?

                                                                  1. re: Jay F

                                                                    I made a version based on the Cooks’ Illustrated recipe yesterday and I thought it was good. The other thing I finally figured out though, which made a big difference, was to brown the meat in small batches *before* adding the celery/carrots/onion soffrito. The vegetables release so much moisture that (in my pans anyway) it’s impossible to get good browned edges to the meat once they’re all in the pan.

                                                                    1. re: cmonsour

                                                                      That's an interesting observation.I rather like the unctuous quality the sauce has when the meat is *not* crispy. Of course it's just a matter of taste, but now I want to try it your way. (I have not tried Cooks Illustrated but I make the Marcella Hazan one rather frequently without changing it much, other than not measuring.)

                                                                      1. re: PesachBenSchlomo

                                                                        Yes, the richness of the sauce is enhanced when you avoid the Maillard effect, and just cook the meat through (browning without creating deep fond, which would be more French than typical for this sauce).

                                                                        1. re: Karl S

                                                                          Ah, I see that you understand, whereas I merely intuit. Thank you for your post - it has sent me to my Google page.

                                                                          1. re: Karl S

                                                                            Interesting. Traditional or not, I personally liked the flavor of a little fond in the sauce (and after simmering for so long there wasn’t any particular crispness left to those bits of meat, which might have been strange). That said, I only make this sauce a couple times a year, and since I’ve tweaked a few parts of the recipe each time I’m never quite sure what particular tweaks are having what effects.

                                                                            1. re: Karl S

                                                                              Here's something I just read about overheating meat.

                                                                              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8880...

                                                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                                                I want to clarify that I’m not talking about crisping up all the meat or overcooking it. I’m talking about getting a light brown crust on a few bits of meat around the edges during the process of cooking the meat through. People may or may not like the slight extra flavor this gives the meat (through caramelization & the Maillard rxn, I guess) but I’m definitely not talking about making it tough or stringy.

                                                                              2. re: Karl S

                                                                                Which is to me, the crux of Hazan's method.
                                                                                I'm sure it's not to everyone's liking, but her bolognese was a revelation for me.

                                                                        2. re: cmonsour

                                                                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/888030

                                                                          I really miss jfood.

                                                                          Gotta ask: if you think it's overrated, why have you fixed it "a dozen times at least"?

                                                                          Also I've really come around to what real Italians have to say - that's it mainly about the pasta not the sauce.

                                                                          And off-topic I recently made a 4X or 5X pot of the sauce out of pork shoulder. I may like it even better than beef.

                                                                          1. re: c oliver

                                                                            Mmmm...Bolognese alla pork shoulder

                                                                            1. re: c oliver

                                                                              Haha, I don’t know, I guess I kept making it because people rave about it and I figured I must just need to keep trying to get it right. And I only say ‘overrated’ because it’s ‘rated’ so particularly highly. It’s always been good, I just haven’t found it decisively better than any number of other ragùs I’ve had in restaurants, or the few other recipes I’ve tried at home. (Batali’s, for example.)

                                                                              Pork shoulder bolognese sounds like a great idea, I may have to give that a try.

                                                                              1. re: cmonsour

                                                                                We started grinding our own meat a few years ago and the first time I made Bolognese I used ground pork cause I had a shoulder that needed using. Since then I've used beef but just made another huge batch using shoulder and I like it better. I make the huge batches cause if I'm going to spend that many hours, then I might as well spend even more time !!! and get a whole bunch of it. And it sure makes fixing her Green Lasagna a bunch easier to already hae the B-sauce done. Still a multi-hour process.