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Modified Hazan's Bolognese - Was this heresy?

At the end of the day I have 13 1 pint jars of MH Bolognese in the basement so I am pleased as punch. But to get to this point I decided to modify a few items in what I consider the best homemade bolognese.

I started with a 106oz can of san marzanos from costco, so i needed to change all of the quantities. I diced a baseball sized onion and then did the math and it wanted 18T of both butter and OO. That struck me as a ton of butter / oil, so i reduced the butter to 1 stick (8T) and did likewise to the OO. So far it looked like the right choice. 3 stalks of diced celery and 3 large carrots diced, still looking good. added 6# of chuck, roger; then the wine, which I reduced the amount to one bottle; kept the correct milk, nutmeg and the tomatoes which i used my immersion blender before adding to the pot. a few hours later, a big freakin' pot of heavenly goodness. a couple of hours later, the canning was completed, tops marked and cooled.

thoughts on changes from all you other MH bolognese lovers? Am I destined to eat the MH canelloni with the devil?

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  1. If it tastes good, who cares about authenticity? I belong to the 'What if...' School of Cooking specializing in 'Cuisine Impromptu. Recipes are just guidelines. I have over 200 cookbooks only because I like to read them. Have I ever religiously followed a recipe out any one of them...NO!

    My personal culinary motto is 'Cook like a peasant...Dine like a gourmet.'

    Buon appetito e mangia bene!

    1 Reply
    1. re: ChiliDude

      ChiliDude, you & i are kindred kitchen souls, and i couldn't have said it better myself!

    2. Though I first heard of Bolognese in Marcella's first book, over the years, I have almost never followed her proportions. I use more meat, carrots, and celery. It bugs me to buy that much celery and carrots only to use such a little bit, so I use more than she calls for, and also make a stew at the same time in another pot. And I'll eat celery raw with a dip.

      I use only as much oil as looks necessary in a 7.25 qt. Le Creuset, and I use pork in addition to beef, so that provides a lot of extra melted fat. I use cream instead of milk, maybe more than what's called for. I only use wine sometimes (I like the flavor, but I don't drink).

      So I'm not going to judge you, jfood. All I think you need to worry about is HOW DOES IT TASTE?

      As an aside, I'm terrified of home-canned anything, due to a bout of food poisoning after eating a jar of homemade piccalilli, so I freeze any extra, or give some to my best friend, who loves my Bolognese so well, he will sometimes buy the ingredients in hopes that I'll make some.

      1. Definitely "canelloni with the devil." But some of us may be heading in that direction anyway so we at least know we'll eat well. Speaking of, how did it taste? I've made quadruple or quintuple (can't remember) batches and didn't change the ratios. (Probably cause you threatened me with damnation) My first batch I got CH advice to take it to about the consistency of (non-NJ) Sloppy Joes and I did. So much drier than I would have originally thought. Sounds like yours would have been great. I'm so impressed that you do canning now.

        1 Reply
        1. re: c oliver

          i now do pressure canning as the bolognese would not reach the proper temperature in a water bath canner. 13 bottles of goodness in the basement (well 10 since i ate one and little jfood took 2 home yesterday).

        2. Not heresy in my book. Marcella's bolognese is fabulous but I regularly make minor changes when cooking up a batch such as extra carrots, celery and onion. Sometimes a bit of pancetta and always a mix of beef, pork and veal.
          And when I make Marcella's sauce again I intend to add a couple of anchovies.

          Now this may be heresy but I'm considering trying this recipe for my next bolognese http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/20...
          The photo is drool-worthy.

          3 Replies
          1. re: EM23

            I'm not a purist, but the tagliatelle recipe has too many ingredients. Let us know how it turns out.

            S'invio cordialissimi saluti e buona fortuna.

            1. re: EM23

              I made Barbara Lynch's Bolognese this year. While I think I'll adopt her meat-to-tomato ratio permanently, I did not like the taste or the texture of chicken livers.

              Have you bought her book, STIR? The entire thing is drool-worthy.

              1. re: Jay F

                Thanks for the heads up about the chicken livers.
                Just looked at her book on Amazon and you are right about the photos, slurp...

            2. All I can say is that you only need enough butter to sweat the miripoix (the onion, carrot, celery combo) & that isn't a lot & enough OO to brown the chuck nicely.
              Enough wine so that you get the right degree of moisture & that's it.

              Never be too hung up on exact quantities except for pastries & cakes & even then it depends.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Yank

                Ah, but ya see, jfood is talking about a dish that is dang near perfect so tinkering with it is dicey. But the dog has taught him a lot and I trust him.

                1. re: Yank

                  I think the oil and butter amount shouls at least do as you suggest and maybe add flavor from the butter.

                  I would disagree with the wine comment for moisture since you cook until the liquid evaporates. It is there for the acidic and flavor effect. Likewise when you add the milk you evaporate that completely and that is there to add a fatty overlay to the beef so the tomatoes do not do damage to the meat in the long cooking process.

                  1. re: Yank

                    And browning the meat is definately cause for damnation according to Marcella. I myself have been reluctant to alter the proportions, though I can imagine that it could be just as good with less butter and oil.

                  2. never thought of canning this sauce. i should look into that. the freezer is too full...

                    1. I wouldn't call it heresy - but have you at least tried the recipe exactly as written at least once?

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: huiray

                        i checked that box at least 6 times

                      2. Hate to break it to you, but there is no canonical bolognese. Marcella's ever-so-great grandmother (or whoever was the source of the recipe) didn't measure ingredients to the gram, and even if she did, there was another cook around the corner in Bologna who claimed her sauce was better.

                        You indicated above that you've followed the recipe strictly before. That gives you a sense for original intent. It's not like you're adding a pound of green chile and making a New Mexican bolognese (although that might have legs...).

                        Now that you've got a feel for how a traditional bolognese should taste, why not make it your own? You'll never exactly duplicate somebody else's results. But that doesn't take anything away from your version.

                        To paraphrase a politically incorrect poem from a while back, "cooking's like religion - some folks 'lected and some ain't. And rules don't no more make a cook than sermons make a saint."

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: alanbarnes

                          Nice poem. Looking forward to more of 'em.

                          1. re: alanbarnes

                            A recipe is like a map - where the map is but a guide and is not the exact territory it represents
                            (ex "World of Null-A" by A. E. Van Vogt).

                            1. re: scoopG

                              Yes but. Once I find what at the time seems like the perfect recipe, I tend not to go down a different road. For a while at least. I'd tinker with her Bolognese a tiny bit but her carbonara is perfection for me so, except for slightly subbing cheese (have only Parm) I leave it alone.

                          2. Bolognese is a sauce most certainly non-canonical
                            and free from all edicts such as staid Papal Bull.

                            The beauty of Hazan is in the milk and the wine.
                            After that, methinks tweaks and nuances are mine.

                            Like jfood, I make up a big run of Marcella
                            and pay special attention to the meat.

                            The beef chuck is best when cut as the "seven bone"
                            and the pork from the sliced butt that presents the most clavicle.
                            Cubed, ground in the KitchenAid,
                            Browned then in cast iron 'til it reaches it's tone.

                            My image of red-faced menacing "Devil"
                            is that rascal that's printed on that "Underwood" label.
                            Poised with a tripod spear, and piercing deltoid tail
                            there's no reason to invite him to my table.

                            The soft-rumbled simmer of the milk and tomaters
                            engaging the beauty of beef and of pork
                            Give not just aromas but beauty of bubbles
                            As my wrist and wood spoon gives good stir with light torque.

                            Let it be Bolognese be each to their own.

                            1. I'm a devoted fan of Hazan's recipe, but when I made bolognese sauce a couple of weeks ago, I decided to try Anna Nanni's recipe, which appeared in Saveur magazine and can be also be found on Saveur's website:


                              It's a terrific recipe, with more zing from the tomatoes, even after they have been cooked down for hours. I think I enjoyed it even more than Hazan's. Nanni doesn't call for milk, so the acidity of the tomatoes and the wine (red wine in Nanni's case) is less tempered than in Hazan's version. I think that using both pork and beef is more interesting than all beef and the pancetta adds an element of complexity. I modified Nanni's recipe only slightly, by grating in some fresh nutmeg. If I make it again, I'll start with a little more soffritto (celery, carrots, onions). Nanni uses even less than Hazan proportionately to the amount of meat.

                              In the Saveur article, Nanni is quoted as saying that if you ask ten women from Bologna how to make ragu, you'll get ten different recipes. There is no single correct recipe for this sauce. A recipe is ony the "right" one if it's the one you like best, so I wouldn't hesitate to experiment with Hazan's or anyone else's. I find that Hazan generally prefers subtlety and understatement. She recommends pancetta over bacon in carbonara sauce, because she dislikes the smokiness of bacon. (I like it both ways.) She uses plain water for fish risotto, rather than fish broth or fumet, and for other risotto, she uses a much more diluted broth (and never stock) than many other people would. There is much to love in Hazan's books, but I don't take her every word as gospel.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: cheesemaestro

                                I think other CHs have mentioned that recipe also. Thanks for the reminder.

                              2. I have never found Hazan's recipe to be anything but a "base" recipe. There is absolutely nothing "earth shattering" or unique about it. It is the same as my mothers recipe from the 1960's. It is like a good sugar cookie recipe...good all on it's own with no substitutions.......or easy to tweak when you feel like it.

                                1. I don't remember cutting down on the butter and oil when I did mine but I was using caribou which is decidedly lean. I did cook it down to "sloppy joe" consistency before canning it and I'm glad I did because it comes out of the jar definitely drier than Hazan's fresh from the stove sauce. I usually end up loosening it with a little wine or water when warming.

                                  You were smart to put it all up in pint jars! I did pints and quarts and discovered the quarts hold waaaay more than two people will consume for a meal. Quarts are party size! Next time I'll do all pints.

                                  1. Just thought of something. With advice from 'hounds, after the first ginormous batch, I used the FP for dicing the celery and carrots. I have quite weak hands and not only did that help me, I don't think the sauce suffered at all from that shortcut. I was careful not to overprocess so there were still a few large chunks that I further chopped by hand.

                                    1. ........wow, quite an accomplishment!
                                      I'm way proud of you jfood and any time your tossing arm needs a little exercise, please feel free to toss me a jar or two.
                                      MH's bolognese is extremely delightful and the smell in the house while making, second to none.
                                      I applaud you for job well done...............
                                      now throw me a jar daggnabit! ;:+)))

                                      1. I am throwing caution to the wind and adding garlic. Seriously, no garlic in the recipe? And then perhaps mushrooms.

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: Lambowner

                                          Seriously, no garlic in bolognese. Ever. Bologna is not a garlic culture. If you put garlic, you can still call it meat sauce, or even rag├╣, but not bolognese.

                                          1. re: mbfant

                                            Okay, I'll do that then. Because I love garlic! I have had this sauce at a restaurant that serves it and I like it, but no herbs or spices of any kind? Unless you count S&P. And nutmeg, which I typically use in Christmas pastry. I don't really get that. It can only get better with garlic? I may just get tossed out of this forum forever, but I also don't get her famous tomato sauce that involves simmering butter and a whole onion with tomatoes. But I haven't tried it yet, so hold your fire.

                                            1. re: Lambowner

                                              Try the butter/onion sauce. But don't tinker with it while it's simmering - it comes alive on the pasta, while it's only "eh" in the pan.