Why It Works
- Gelatin enhances the body of the sauce, making it extra rich and mouth-coating.
- Browning only half the meat builds great roasted flavor, but still leaves the other half nice and tender, even after extended cooking.
- Fish sauce adds savory depth without adding any noticeable fishy flavor.
Ragù bolognese is one of the greatest meat sauces in the world, and an essential component of several pasta dishes, including the classic lasagne alla bolognese. This recipe delivers a bolognese sauce with a clean flavor profile that plays up the subtle sweetness of the dairy and aromatic vegetables, along with the warm spice notes of nutmeg. A finishing splash of cream creates a luxuriously smooth final texture.
Ragù bolognese can be made ahead of time, and keeps in the refrigerator for up to five days; it can be frozen for up to three months.
- 2 packets unflavored powdered gelatin (1/2 ounce; 15g)
- 2 cups (475ml) homemade or store-bought low-sodium broth
- 3 tablespoons (45g) unsalted butter
- 2 large carrots (about 375g; 12 ounces), peeled and finely minced (see note)
- 3 medium celery ribs (about 240g; 8 ounces); finely minced (see note)
- 2 medium yellow onions (about 480g; 1 pound), finely minced (see note)
- 4 pounds (1.8kg) ground meat, either all beef or 2 pounds beef with 1 pound each ground pork and veal, divided (see note)
- 1/4 cup (60ml) tomato paste
- 1 1/2 cups (350ml) dry white or red wine
- 2 bay leaves
- Kosher salt
- Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon (3ml) Asian fish sauce
- 1/2 cup (120ml) heavy cream
In a wide container, sprinkle gelatin on top of stock and set aside.
In a large Dutch oven, melt butter over medium-high heat until foaming. Add carrots, celery, and onion and cook, stirring, until translucent, about 6 minutes. Add half (2 pounds) of the ground meat and cook, stirring occasionally and breaking up any large pieces as you go, until well browned on bottom of pot, about 15 minutes.
Add remaining 2 pounds meat and cook, stirring and scraping bottom of pot while breaking up the meat into very small pieces, until all meat is cooked through, about 6 minutes; lower heat at any point to prevent scorching.
Add tomato paste and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Stir in wine, scraping bottom of pot, and bring to a boil, then cook until raw alcohol smell has cooked off, about 5 minutes. Add bay leaves.
Add reserved stock, scraping all the hydrated gelatin with it, to the Dutch oven and bring to a simmer; lower heat to maintain a very gentle simmer. Season with salt and add pinch nutmeg and fish sauce. Continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce is thickened and has almost no excess liquid remaining, about 3 hours. Skim and discard any fat from surface along with bay leaves. Stir in cream and season with salt.
Use right away, refrigerate up to 5 days, or freeze for up to 3 months.
You can mince by hand, but for speed and ease, a food processor will make quick work of the aromatic vegetables. You can make this recipe with ground beef alone, but for even better flavor and texture, a mixture of beef, pork, and veal will deliver best results.