Ragù Classico

In Bologna, this beautiful city with its delicious food, they don’t serve “bolognese”, but ragù. This sauce is not eaten there with spaghetti either, because it is too thick for such fine pasta and therefore does not go together harmoniously. It is eaten with tagliatelle.

Bologna lies in the northern region of Emilia-Romagna, where Italian cuisine is very different from other regions and especially from the south. Therefore, no herbs of any kind belong in a ragù, especially not Mediterranean ones. Quite a few cooks in Bologna would also not use olive oil for the preparation, but at best butter. Garlic is out of the question.

There are, of course, an infinite number of recipes for such a famous dish, and even in Bologna, the cooking is by no means identical everywhere. There are famous versions of ragù that contain chicken liver. Mixtures of beef and pork are common. Also, different proportions of ingredients are used, vegetables are added to the pot at different times, etc.

Today we are simply explaining the “official” recipe for Ragù Classico Bolognese from the Accademia Italiana Della Cucina. It is simple and delicious – both very typical of Italian cuisine – and an excellent basis for personal development. It also teaches that just a few ingredients and spices can make a great dish, if only handled properly.

Let’s go for it:

The core ingredients are beef, preferably chopped coarsely, tomato passata, finely diced pancetta and also very finely diced onion, carrot and celery in equal proportions.

Onion, carrot and celery make up the classic Italian soffritto, as it is also often used for a risotto

A heavy saucepan is best, or alternatively a high braising pan. First sweat the pancetta in it over medium-high heat (for us, induction: 6 out of 10) for about 5 minutes to release the fat. It is not necessary to add butter or oil for this.

Allow time for each individual step, therein lies the great secret of flavour evolvement

Then add the vegetables, which are sweated in the fat of the pancetta and 1 – 2 tablespoons of butter for another about 8 minutes.

A well-known Bologna chef does this one at a time, in the order onion – celery – carrot, with 5 minutes cooking time for each

Make some space in the middle of the pot and sear the meat on the bottom of the pot. Use a spatula to make sure it separates into small crumbs and browns up nicely.

After a few minutes everything is sautéed and already smells great.

Time for the red wine: Add one half so that the temperature does not drop too much and let the wine evaporate almost completely, stirring gently. Then add the second half and do the same again.

The beginnings of a brownish sauce are already forming

Now add the tomato passata and stir in well.

The finished mixture is now brought to the boil once….

…and a lid is then placed on the pot so that a gap is left open to allow the sauce to reduce slowly.

For us, level 3 out of 10 is now sufficient for everything to simmer gently

The ragù now needs a good 1 ½ hours, during which you should stir occasionally and check whether there is still enough liquid. If it becomes too dry, add a small amount of vegetable stock. You should not need more than 150 ml.

After this time, the lid is removed and the milk is added. Yes, milk. We would have thought more of cream, but it actually works great with whole milk and we want to stick to one particular recipe today.

Again, mix everything well and simmer on low heat for another good 30 minutes until the ragù has reached the desired consistency: creamy, not liquid.

Now season with salt and black pepper from the mill. All done.

For the sake of completeness: The recipe declares some additional cream optional, in case the ragù should be eaten with dry pasta instead of fresh tagliatelle. However, this does not seem necessary to us.

Nothing more is done, except patiently tossing your tagliatelle in some warm sauce. No more spices, no cheese.

And as we have already explained here: Spreading pasta on plates and then just putting sauce on top is a mortal sin. The pasta also has to “taste” the sauce first, as the saying goes.


And may the taste be with you.

Ingredients (for 4 people – with pasta of course):

300 g coarsely chopped beef

150 g pancetta

50 g carrot

50 g celery

50 g onion

300 g tomato passata

125 ml red wine

250 ml whole milk

Some butter (or olive oil, but this does not go down well in Bologna)

Some vegetable stock

Salt and pepper

A little cream if dry pasta is used instead of fresh tagliatelle (optional)

That‘s it!

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