Nick K's Traditional Bolognese.
Buckle yourselves in, this is going to be a bumpy ride.
I've been making this now for about 5 years, every other week. My wife, who has Italian origins (one generation ago) started me off in what they liked and expected a bolognese sauce to be. Its a little different to real traditional Italian bolognese but it keeps the spirit. I am quite passionate about this sauce because it tastes so damn good and I have been tweaking it over the years.
The real difference between most other bolognese sauces and Italian style is that, Italian style is really long cooking (5-6 hours sometimes) on a low heat and the meat is added raw to the sauce just after it comes to a gentle boil, the heat of the sauce is what cooks the meat and it is not sealed beforehand letting the sauce flavours penetrate the meat. My way of preparing this is extremely child friendly, my kids go mad for it and as they can't see any vegetables in it it poses no problems. Since going primal, I just enjoy it chucked over mixed stir fried veggies.
So hear goes, you'll have to reduce quantities as necessary, this recipe makes about 9 litres of sauce. It does well being frozen which is why I make big batches.
You will need:
20 red ripe tomatoes (on the vine are much better)
6 large bell peppers (mixed colours)
3-4 large onions
5-10 cloves of garlic (your preference, I use 7)
4 litres of the best passata you can lay your hands on (not concentrate, just liquid tomatoes)
2 tablespoons of paprika
2 tablespoons of sea salt
75 twists of fresh ground black pepper
1.25 kg (2.75 lbs) of minced (that's ground I suppose for my American friends) beef or beef/veal
Good quality olive oil
0-3 glasses red wine
1. OK, so get your big pot out and get it half full of boiling water - once its boiling, chuck in your 20 tomatoes. Not cooking them here, just doing the old skin trick. Cover and get your pot back to the boil quickly. Observe every few mins until you see the skin has split most of the way through on all the tomatoes. Get your tomatoes out and plunge them into a basin of the coldest water you can manage - preferably with ice in, but not mandatory. You should find now that the skin is really easy to peel off (If you caught it right the skin often just falls off).
Take all of your peeled tomatoes and thoroughly blend them in a mixer until it's all liquid. Take your big cleaned empty pot and place it back on the stove. Give it a little drizzle of good quality olive oil to coat the bottom, but don't turn the heat on yet. Chuck your liquid tomatoes back in the pot. If you see and lumps hook them out.
2. Whilst the tomatoes are in the water, coarsely chop the onions, garlic and the leek. Get some olive oil and or butter melted and warm in a pan on a low heat, time to sweat off the onions, garlic and the leek (boy that smell is good!). Only takes about 5-10 mins for them all to turn translucent and be squishy. The pungent onion taste will not cook out properly if they are placed raw into the sauce and the leek is in there secondly for flavour, but firstly because I have found it to regulate acidity really well. Pop this mix into a blender and make it into a purée. Add this purée to your big pot, which should have the blended tomatoes in it by now.
3. Top and tail the bell peppers, take the insides out (or leave them in if you like the seeds in there too) and blend them all into liquid peppers . Add this also to the pot.
4. Add to the pot the salt, pepper and paprika followed by the 4 litres of passata. Mix this all through until its homogeneous and then you can turn the heat on. If you want to put some red wine in, now is the time.
5. Bring the whole thing to a gentle rolling boil. Now you can add the ground meat. Reduce the heat until you have the lowest of low simmers, it should have little bubbles on the surface once in a while. Stay with your sauce for 5 minutes breaking the meat apart with a large spatula or spoon. Ideally you want the meat to be totally broken down into tiny pieces, but don't be tempted to do it with a hand blender - this makes the meat too fine. Give it a really good stir, don't worry about covering here.
6. Every 30-60 minutes, come back, give it a good stir and check it's not burning on the bottom. After 2 hours it will taste very good, after 4, it will be heavenly.
What about the spices Nick?
I have learnt the hard way, if you try to put dried basil and oregano and other spices in, they will just end up being unattractive black flecks in the sauce. If you try to put fresh herbs into a sauce with such a long cooking time, the essential oils will evaporate long before the sauce is cooked. The best idea from my point of view is to get a mass of lovely fresh basil when you want to eat and shred this over the sauce once its served - tastes much better. You could also put in fresh basil right at the end of cooking if you wanted to. Obviously, freshly grated parmesan cheese is what this sauce deserves.
You're done, let it cool down and freeze it off in tuperwares.
If you have a bash, let me know how it goes.
WOW! I love "bolognese-type" sauces. I put quotes on that because most found in the USA are not traditional. TJs has a nice turkey based sauce I like a lot. But it's also probably not the real deal.
I will try to make this either in the next few weeks or later in the summer when tomatoes get cheap at my local Greenstring Farm down the road.
Good points about the herbs. Thanks a lot for sharing this recipe.
*EDIT* I forgot to ask, is an ok passata something like canned crushed tomatoes as found in USA?
Last edited by Viking; 06-27-2011 at 12:33 AM.
Sounds fantastic! Thanks for sharing
Hiyas Viking, good question. Passata is quite different to either tomato paste or crushed tomatoes. It is really easy to get in mainland Europe. I live in Belgium so I think nothing of it, but I can imagine its fair difficult to lay your hands on in the US. Passata is somewhere in between concentrated paste and crushed tomatoes. It definitely is richer in tomato taste than crushed, it's almost like lumpy tomato juice. I don't think substituting it would work well, I've tried from good quality tomatoes to make passata, but it has never tasted like good quality Italian passata, which tastes a lot more tomato-y.
Originally Posted by Viking
If you want to go for the real deal, I would suggest hiking to your nearest Italian deli and enquiring..
You are more than welcome. This sauce has a lot of "food love" bound to it, and I can assure you, it's a real taste explosion of vegetables, beef and tomato, not a lot else I have cooked or tasted in a restaurant comes close!
Originally Posted by Misabi
Nick K, is this considered passata? Pomi strained tomatoes.
I found this at my local Whole Foods.
Here's a review from SF Weekly (I live north of San Francisco so I would consider this a local resource).
Last edited by Viking; 06-27-2011 at 05:05 PM.
Hiyas Viking, I got your PM. Sorry for the late reply - school holidays starting, I have 3 kids and very busy at the mo.
Originally Posted by Viking
Yes, that looks very much like passata. I read the review you linked and it is spot on: "Even homemade sauce made from peak-season plum tomatoes would be hard-pressed to match the intense, rich flavor of this puree, which is superior to any canned tomatoes or tomato paste I've had, imported or domestic." This is exactly what I was talking about in my recipe. Good passata just tastes richer and more intense.
Kudos for finding that in the US, if you or anyone else wants to try this recipe in the US, you really need to go after a product like this. It will taste and have a consistency very much different otherwise. When this sauce is done properly for 4 hours, a large wooden spoon can be stood up straight in the sauce and not move.
It's a real pity that passata is not so widely known in the US. It is superior in every way to any other kind of tomato product for taste. In Belgium, France and Italy, you find many different brands in any superstore and in any little general food store. It's a staple for making any tomato based sauce.
Cheers for the interest Viking, and I hope you have ago. If it does not taste fantastic, I will eat my shoes!
i think viking should make a bunch & send me some!
Wouldn't that be a surprise package.
Originally Posted by Catherine
We are starting a heat wave here and I won't be cooking a lot for a few days (cooler stuff like salads and BBQ are likely). But next week I will probably try this and use it in zucchini lasagna.
@PNK I'm glad I found the real deal and look forward to trying this. Thanks for your feedback.
You are more than welcome Viking. I know when you do this sauce properly (and to be honest, it's pretty difficult to screw it up unless your simmer is too high in which case it will burn on the bottom), that it will ask the question "Why the hell did I not know about this before". It's that good, I promise.
Cheers again, and I really hope you have a dig at this - in fact I would love to hear from you if you give it a go.