Bolognese ragu may be the most famous Italian sauce in the world, along with pesto. Outside Italy spaghetti bolognese is usually thought of as a spaghetti sauce, but this goes against tradition. It is usually used with special pastas like tagliatelle and lasagne. Its origins are very ancient, going back to the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, and linked to the great mixture of cultures (and cuisines) in Bologna over the centuries, thanks to its University, the oldest in the world. The recipe agreed upon as authentic was registered by the Italian Academy of Cuisine in 1982, following 38 years of research and debate. Minced meat used in this tasty recipe is a special cut of beef, called cartella (skirt), the muscle that separates the lungs and stomach of the animal. Unlike what you may think, ragout (or Bolognese sauce) contains very little tomato, in a concentrated form; the basic vegetables are onions, carrots and celery, chopped up together and “soffritti”, lightly fried in oil. The use of “soffritto” is common in Italian cuisine, from north to south, differing only in the type of fat used. In the north, it’s butter, in the south, olive oil. In Bolognese ragu, both are used, with excellent results!
In a deep saucepan, heat oil and add finely chopped celery, carrots and onions. Fry until golden. Meanwhile chop the panecetta, add it to the minced beef and pour it all in the pan. Lightly fry the meat until browned, stirring occasionally. Add the red wine and allow it to evaporate, then dissolve the tomato paste in a bit of broth and add it to the meat. Add salt and leave the sauce to simmer for 1 hour over a low flame, adding broth to keep it from becoming too thick. At the end, add milk, salt and pepper.
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