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Critique my bolognese

Hi guys, long-time reader, first-time poster. Hoping to get some input on my pretty standard bolognese recipe... any easy little things I could do/add to make it yummier? It's already pretty yummy, but there's always room for improvement, right?

Araminty's bolognese
Olive oil
1 onion, chopped
Garlic, 3+ cloves, chopped
Anchovy fillets/paste
1-2lbs ground beef, lean
Mixed Italian dried herbs +/ fresh basil (if it is in season)
1 lg/2 sm tins of chopped Italian tomatoes
Tomato paste

Fry onions and garlic in olive oil until translucent, then add 3-4 anchovies/equivalent of paste and stir to break up. Add the ground beef and stir thoroughly, breaking up the clumps as much as possible, until the beef is cooked through. Add the dried herbs, tomatoes and tomato paste. Check seasoning, add vinegar/sugar if required to balance flavours. Simmer as long as possible, at least 45 min.

What do you think? Any tips for me?


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  1. This looks like more of an "American" ragu than a traditional Italian bolognese, maybe it's just semantics, but I'd say it might be interesting for you to try a traditional bolognese, and compare. Here's Batali's:

    I love both, and my ragu is similar to yours, but I add a glug or two of red wine, and I prefer fresh thyme while simmering and fresh basil to garnish. Haven't tried anchovies- duh, why not -but I will next time, that has to be delicious. Welcome to posting, don't be shy in the future, the more voices the merrier!

    1. Every bolognese I ever made called for milk at some point and red wine, too. I think the red wine comes first, then you simmer till it's almost gone. Same w/ the milk; add and simmer till all liquid is absorbed/evaporated. Also, seem to remember some finely diced celery along w/ the onion and garlic (maybe carrot, too....) Buon Appetito! Adam

      1. Seems to have a lot of tomato.

        1. I like to add the tomato paste to the browned meat and cook for a few minutes before adding the crushed tomatoes. Also, as a few others have already noted, I believe an authentic Bolognese has to have some milk added, probably to the meat mixture after browning. It makes for a cremier texture.

          1. It is a very nice ragu. If you want to add variety. I start with a little pancetta then add the onions and some carrot and celery chopped fine. I use meatloaf mix rather than just beef and after the tomato paste cooks in with the meat and vegetables I add white wine and let it reduce down then add chicken stock rather than tomatoes. Let the flavors meld together and I finish it with a little cream or milk.

            1. Nutmeg - Definitely add some.

              Check out this Marcella Hazan Bolognese recipe:


              1. It is missing carrots and wine (and milk as someone already noted above). Look at Mario Batali's or Marcella Hazan's recipes. Saveur Magazine even had an article in the last few months dedicated to the various bolognese recipes out there.

                1. there's definitely a big difference between Italian bolognese and American. In Italy, a bolognese is one specific type of ragu, here it seems to stand in for most meat ragus (i ate at a "southern italian" place in Philly a month or so ago where the ragu was essentially their basic red sauce with sauteed meat added to it). The essence of a real Italian ragu (and, for that matter, a good American one), is long, slow cooking and in definite stages. 45 minues isn't going to get it done. also, italian ragus tend to be much more about tomato paste (added at the beginning, not the end). cook it until the color turns brick red, not bright.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: FED

                    That seems to be what Anne Burrell's recipe (below) is about. Really superior to "meat sauce" that you get most places.

                  2. I'd never made bolognese before making Anne Burrell's version after watching her show on Food Network (one of the few I'd watch). It came out GREAT.


                    (Damn! I hate that FN site!) Her points about making sure you *brown* everything really make a different in the deep flavors you want to develop.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: LindaWhit

                      i haven't seen teh anne burrell version (and hate the FN website, so won't), but another secret is lots of pork: build on saltpork or pancetta; then braise a nice fatty piece of shoulder; then finish with italian sausage. a great ragu is amazing: there's a depth of flavors and all of the ingredients add up to a separate flavor that isn't defined by any of them.