Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Puppies and Pasta

My puppy, and pasta coated in Mario Batali's Ragu Bolognese - two comforts that helped me get through another week of drama with a certain man acting like an immature boy. Trapper and I are pounding the pavement in Coronado in search of our own little cottage or bungalow so we can get moved, lick our wounds and start anew. Single again at 50...oh boy! I think I'll stay away from this time ;-)

Ragu Bolognese is a ragu made of layers and layers of flavors. Ragu Bolognese is made differently by every single grandmother, or mother, or daughter, or son who learns about it. It is delicious and it is absolutely the building block of some of the greatest dishes in all of Emilia–Romagna. - Mario Batali

I spent Sunday in the kitchen, preparing a double batch of Mario's ragu bolognese and a carrot cake for Mom's birthday. Both turned out fabulous, if I do say so myself. There are a few versions of Mario's bolognese out there, on Food,, and a YouTube via a Wine Spectator video of Mario himself in the kitchen. The versions vary slightly in the quantities of ingredients and cooking times/methods. Pancetta is used in place of ground beef in the Food Network version I followed, but it's a little more expensive to go that route, especially when making a double batch requiring 2 lbs of ground veal and 1/2 lb. pancetta. The Epicurious version is closest to Mario's version on the video, but varies in some of the the cooking times/methods.

Mario Batali's Ragu Bolognese

Mario demonstrates preparation of his Ragu Bolognese in this Wine Spectator video on YouTube. I've summarized the steps below, but it's very helpful to watch, especially to see how brown he allows the meat to become before adding the tomato paste. I would have never taken it to this level without watching this first.

Video Notes: 
This isn't a sauce to make if you're in a hurry if you want to make it the correct way. The recipe begins with the use of lipids, a combination of extra virgin olive oil and butter, which will give the sauce a velvety texture. The next layer is the mirepoix (carrot, celery, onion and garlic). You want to sweat the vegetables without allowing them to brown or discolor (if they discolor, you should throw them out and start over). Next is the meat - a combination of veal, pork and ground beef. The meat is cooked for quite some time, over a slightly lower heat, to render off all the fat and allow the meat to brown. After about 45 minutes, you will be able to hear a crackling noise in the pan telling you the meat is no longer braising or boiling. At that point, using a wooden spoon, move around all those brown, sticky bits stuck to the bottom of the pan, which add another layer of flavor. Next, add the tomato paste. This is probably the single most important cooking step - allowing the tomato paste to cook with the meat slowly, for about 30 minutes, allowing it to caramelize and intensify the sweetness of the tomato flavor. The bottom of the pan will be slightly scorched, but that's what you want. The addition of the milk at this point will act as a deglaze. It will take about 45 minutes for the milk to totally evaporate. Following evaporation of the milk, add a relatively dry white wine and reduce until evaporated and the alcohol has cooked off. At this point, turn the heat down to low and cover the pan so the liquid doesn't cook off and the sauce doesn't become too thick. After about an hour, taste the ragu for seasoning.

Mario Batali's Ragu Bolognese
Slightly adapted from Wine Spectator video, Food Network and Epicurious
Serves 4-6


5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
3 medium carrots, finely diced
1 medium onion, diced
3 ribs celery, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, sliced
3/4 pound veal, ground
3/4 pound pork, ground
3/4 pound beef, ground (ground chuck)
6 ounces tomato paste
1 cup milk
1 cup dry white wine
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Cooked pasta
Parmigiano-Reggiano, for grating


In a 6 to 8-quart, heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat. Add the onions, celery, carrot and garlic and sweat over medium heat until the vegetables are translucent and soft, but not browned, about 15 minutes. Add the veal, pork, and beef and stir into the vegetables. Lower the heat slightly and cook, Continue cooking, stirring occasionally to keep the meat from sticking together, until well-browned and all the fat has cooked off, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Add the tomato paste, stir to incorporate, and cook slowly for about 30 minutes. Add the milk, stir and scrape up any browned bits off the bottom of the pan, and allow to simmer another 45 minutes. Add the wine, simmer about 10 minutes until reduced, decrease the heat to low, cover, and simmer for another hour. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and remove from the heat.

When ready to serve, transfer the pasta directly out of the boiling water into the saucepan with the appropriate amount of the hot ragu bolognese, and toss so that the pasta is evenly coated. Serve with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Tagliatelle alla Bolognese - Mom's Birthday Dinner on her balcony

Leftover sauce can be frozen for 2 months.

Strozzapreti alla Bolognese - Leftover bolognese with a handful of pasta a few nights later

My other comfort - Trapper at 9 months

Trapper with Mr. Platypus

1 comment:

Emily said...

OH. EM. GEE. I cannot get over this dog! He's hilarious and gorgeous and HUGE! I just 'met' your blog and Trapper, but I am already in love!

Can't wait to read more about the big black beauty!

Peace & Love