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Jun 18, 2013 01:27 PM

Help me scale up Marcella Hazan's Classic Bolognese (Ragu) Recipe

Hello all,

I have cooked this classic recipe a few times with good results. However, the one time I tried to do a larger batch something went wrong. So, I was hoping some of you might help with how to scale the recipe up. I'm assuming that simply doubling or tripling or whatever every single ingredient is not quite right. But I'm not confident in judging what to increase and what to leave alone or only increase partially. I'm hoping a better cook than I can give me some help.

I've copied the recipe below (I'm assuming this is ok to do as the recipe is very widely available all over the internet). This is from the original, first MH book, not the later compilation

2 tablespoons chopped yellow onion
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons chopped celery
2 tablespoons chopped carrot
0.75 lb ground lean beef, preferably chuck
1 cup dry white wine
0.5 cup milk
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
2 cups canned italian tomatoes

yield: 2.25 cups

So my question is what might you suggest for, say a double or triple batch. And then, if anyone wants to venture an answer for an even larger batch, how bout 10x for a large party?

Thank you so much for the help. It is much appreciated.

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  1. When I make a big batch of any stew(I'm a caterer) I brown everything, meat and veg, then simmer in the milk then the wine then I transfer it to my huge roasting pan. I continue like that until I fill it up then i add the tomatoes cover it with parchment then foil. I worry that there might be a reaction between foil and wine. Bake low and slow. I think you have to be way more careful baking larger batches. Can't wait to hear other opinions.

    1. The things that come to my mind are; you made an arithmetic mistake when you scaled it up or if you converted from tablespoons to cups you made a mistake there. Chopped onion is not something I think of measuring by the tablespoon...

      The other thing is that pot you used to cook the larger batch maybe did not work as well for browning or reducing the sauce.

      If you were more specific about what "went wrong" people could make more intelligent suggestions/speculation.

      2 Replies
      1. re: kengk


        Sorry, maybe I was unclear. The point of the OP was not 'what went wrong'. I included the fact that I had once screwed up a larger batch simply as background to why i was asking the question, which was intended to be, simply: how do you scale up the original recipe? The recipe i listed in the OP was not any kind of attempt at a scaled up version; it is the original amounts as they appear the in the Marcella Hazan book. The original recipe does indeed call for 2 tbsp of chopped ontions. So the question to all of you is simply, how would you scale that up?


        1. re: PFStella

          I would multiply all my ingredients by however many times I wanted to increase the recipe by. Understanding that the greater quantity would change the size of my pans/heat/times etc.

          My point about the tablespoons is that if you had coarsely chopped onion and measured it out with two scoops of a tablespoon it might be different than if you doubled it (a quarter cup) and measured in a 1/4 cup measure.

      2. The recipes that we home cooks use are created with our household pots and pans and heat sources in mind. That explains one of the difficulties in scaling up recipes. When we double or quadruple amounts, the cooking process does not scale up by a factor of two or four; instead of sautéing, we may end up braising, or worse. The other factor is that not every ingredient should be increased by the same increment. The amount of liquid used, for example, must also take the shape of the cooking utensil into account. There will be more evaporation in a wide, low utensil than in a narrow, tall one.
        Gloriaa's method of dividing up the steps and using the oven to substitute for a restaurant's higher intensity heat source is a good idea.

        1. When I make this recipe, I'm using two big cans of tomatoes or 56 ounces. This is 3.5x the 2 c called for. I increase everything proportionally, more or less. Four times for the dry ingredients and 3+ times for the wet ingredients just cuz it's easier to compute. As others have mentioned, size of pan matters and cooking time is increased for the reduction steps. Even though the whole volume could fit into a sauce pan, I use a big Dutch oven to have greater surface area.

          Maybe you could tell us more about what was different in your results to let us help you more specifically.

          1. I almost always double or triple this recipe when I make it because its so yummy and I freeze some. I use exact multiples of her ingredients. It takes longer for the wine to evaporate, and for the milk to cook down. You can't really hurry it. But I have always had consistent results with the 2x and 3x scale.