Yesterday was National Spaghetti Day, but this is the only time this post will have anything to do with that. While searching online for spaghetti inspiration, I ran across a photo Marcella Hazan’s Bolognese Sauce. Spaghetti and meatballs would have to wait until next year. I was making Bolognese, Marcella Hazan’s Bolognese.
The author of seven best-selling cookbooks, the late Marcella Hazan is considered the “first mother of Italian cooking” in America. Some say the way we think about Italian food in America is due to her influence.
When Craftsy offered an online Italian cooking class, taught by Marcella Hazan’s only son, Giuliano Hazan, I jumped at the chance. The class, Classic Italian Pasta Sauces: Seafood & Vegetable, did not include red sauces, but after tasting this Bolognese, I plan to sign up for Hazan’s second class, Classic Italian Pasta Sauces: Meat & Tomato. Maybe then I’ll have the courage to take his Homemade Italian Pasta class!
If you haven’t yet tried a Craftsy class, I recommend you do so. It is a fun, self paced way to learn new skills from the experts. I loved Giuliano Hazan’s teaching style. He was very warm and personable, so much so that after dinner last night, I wanted to call him up and say, “Hey dude, I just made your Mom’s Bolognese and it was the bomb diggity!” But, I don’t have his phone number and he, of course, has no idea who I am. Instead, I rattled on and on to Michael and the Hazans’, Bolognese, and the importance of authentic Parmigiano-Reggiano.
But back to the Bolognese. Marcella Hazan’s recipe for Bolognese takes a full four hours to make. I was determined to prepare the recipe exactly as written and I cooked it for the full four hours. Bolognese is not so much a tomato sauce as it is a meat sauce. The classic recipe must contain onions, celery, carrots, pancetta, ground beef, tomatoes, milk and white wine. Traditionally it is served over a long, flat pasta, preferably tagliatelle. I didn’t have any flat pasta on hand, so I used rigatoni. My bad. Next time I will follow the rules for how to serve Bolognese, as well as how to make it.
I am happy to say that the Bolognese did not suffer from the lack of a flat pasta. It was delicious! Michael raved about it.
The long, slow simmer gives the flavors from the vegetables and the meat time to fully develop. The milk adds a rich creaminess to the sauce. The addition of real Parmigiana-Reggiani at the table completes the dish. Don’t leave it off.
Bolognese is not spaghetti sauce or marinara sauce. It is Bolognese sauce, in a class of its own. If you decide to make Marcella Hazan’s Bolognese Sauce, I think you’ll agree.
Here is her recipe, as it appeared in the New York Times.
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 3 tablespoons butter plus 1 tablespoon for tossing the pasta
- ½ cup chopped onion
- ⅔ cup chopped celery
- ⅔ cup chopped carrot
- ¾ pound ground beef chuck (or you can use 1 part pork to 2 parts beef)
- Black pepper, ground fresh from the mill
- 1 cup whole milk
- Whole nutmeg
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 1 ½ cups canned imported Italian plum tomatoes, cut up, with their juice
- 1 ¼ to 1 ½ pounds pasta
- Freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese at the table
- Put the oil, butter and chopped onion in the pot and turn the heat on to medium. Cook and stir the onion until it has become translucent, then add the chopped celery and carrot. Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring vegetables to coat them well.
- Add ground beef, a large pinch of salt and a few grindings of pepper. Crumble the meat with a fork, stir well and cook until the beef has lost its raw, red color.
- Add milk and let it simmer gently, stirring frequently, until it has bubbled away completely. Add a tiny grating — about 1/8 teaspoon — of nutmeg, and stir.
- Add the wine, let it simmer until it has evaporated, then add the tomatoes and stir thoroughly to coat all ingredients well. When the tomatoes begin to bubble, turn the heat down so that the sauce cooks at the laziest of simmers, with just an intermittent bubble breaking through to the surface. Cook, uncovered, for 3 hours or more, stirring from time to time. While the sauce is cooking, you are likely to find that it begins to dry out and the fat separates from the meat. To keep it from sticking, add 1/2 cup of water whenever necessary. At the end, however, no water at all must be left and the fat must separate from the sauce. Taste and correct for salt.
- Toss with cooked drained pasta, adding the tablespoon of butter, and serve with freshly grated Parmesan on the side.