Tagliatelle alla Bolognese

This is one of my favorite recipes – I’ve been making it for a while now and absolutely love it. The bummer is that it takes a long time… three to four hours from start to finish. It makes enough for Mike and I to have dinner and then another meal, so if you’re cooking it for a dinner party, you’ll want to double it.

The key to this meal is the soffritto – the mixture of carrot, onion, and celery. It makes the sauce taste amazing and the house smells awesome for hours after! It conjures up that “something’s cooking” smell that makes your stomach grumble!

I finally perfected the pasta – I made tagliatelle, which is a long, thin ribbon. It made all the difference – this tasted so gourmet!

Tagliatelle alla Bolognese
Tagliatelle alla Bolognese

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 small carrots, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 ounces thick-cut pancetta, chopped
1/2 pound ground pork
1/2 pound ground beef chuck
1/2 cup dry red wine, such as Barbera
1 cup drained, chopped canned
Roma tomatoes (aka plum tomatoes)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cups beef stock, plus more as needed
1 cup whole milk (I just use my fat-free milk, but I’m sure whole would be yummy)
Sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 pound fresh egg pasta dough
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

To make the Bolognese sauce, in a Dutch oven or other large, heavy pot over medium-low heat, melt the butter. Add the carrots, celery, onion and pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, until the ingredients are tender and a rich golden brown, about 30 minutes. If the ingredients begin to brown too much, reduce the heat and stir in a spoonful or two of warm water.

Add the ground meats to the pot and stir well. Raise the heat to medium and cook, breaking up the meats with a wooden spoon, until lightly browned and crumbly and their juices have evaporated, about 20 minutes.

Add the wine and deglaze the pot, scraping up the browned bits from the pot bottom. Cook until the wine evaporates, about 2 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, the tomato paste, the 2 cups stock, the milk, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and the nutmeg. Cook the mixture until it just begins to simmer, then reduce the heat to very low and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for about 1 hour. If the sauce becomes too thick or threatens to scorch, add a little more stock.

Partially cover the pot and continue cooking the sauce on the lowest heat setting until it is thick and dark brown, 1 – 1 1/2 hours longer. When the sauce is ready, use a large spoon to skim off and discard any fat that floats on the surface. Cover the pan and set aside.

While the sauce is simmering, make the pasta dough, then divide and roll out each piece into a sheet 1/16 inch thick. Cut the pasta into tagliatelle and let dry for 10-20 minutes.

Bring a large pot three-fourths full of water to a rolling boil and add about 2 tablespoons salt. Add the tagliatelle, stir well, and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente, 1 1/2 – 2 minutes.

While the pasta is cooking, reheat the sauce over medium-low heat. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt, pepper and/or nutmeg.

When the tagliatelle is ready, scoop out and reserve about 2 ladlefuls of the cooking water, then drain the pasta. Add the drained pasta to the sauce in the pot and stir and toss until well coated with the sauce, adjusting the consistency with some of the cooking water if needed. Serve with fresh grated cheese.

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