I love slow cooked bolognese sauce — it is so worth the time it takes to make. I didn’t always think so, but then I found a recipe that really works for me. Recently, my sister asked me for the recipe I use. When I went to send her the link, I realized I wasn’t actually following one recipe, but rather a mix of two – Josh Cohen’s Bolognese on Food52 and the bolognese sauce from Deb Perlman’s Lasagna Bolognese on Smitten Kitchen. Rather than sending her a long text describing what I do, I decided to write it up here.
There are two main differences between the recipes I used for inspiration. The first is the quantity made. Deb Perlman’s recipe makes enough sauce for a single lasagna, while Josh Cohen’s recipe makes enough for spaghetti (with leftovers) one night and a lasagna another night. As cooking this sauce takes an entire afternoon and it freezes well, I want to make as big a batch as I can. While Deb Perlman suggests doubling her recipe, I found it easier to simply use the ratios from Josh Cohen’s recipe. The other big difference between the two recipes is one (Deb Perlman’s) uses a mix of carrots, onions, and celery as a flavor base and the other (Josh Cohen’s) uses no vegetables at all. I prefer adding vegetables to any recipe I can. But I don’t like the flavor celery brings to the party, so I only use carrots and onions.
To get started, I chop the onions and carrots to a very fine dice. You can use a food processor here if you prefer – the vegetables will cook down and melt into the sauce, so a perfect dice is not essential. When I am ready to start cooking, I add a splash of olive oil to my pot and turn the heat to medium-high. When the pot is hot, I add the vegetables and give them a good season with salt and pepper.
After sautéing the vegetables for about 10 to 15 minutes, they are soft and brown. I now crumble in the ground beef and ground pork and brown the meat. I use the spoon to make sure there are no clumps. Again, I season the sauce with salt and pepper. I moderate the amount of salt I use here depending on how salty the stock I plan to use is.
When the meat is brown throughout, I add the chopped garlic and herbs, the tomato paste, and the tomatoes. I give it a good stir to make sure everything is well combined and the tomatoes are smashed and fully distributed. I prefer to use whole peeled tomatoes here, but if you realize you purchased chopped tomatoes after you got home from the store, like I did, go ahead and use them (as I did here). They don’t break down as much as whole tomatoes, but they work well enough.
After the tomatoes have simmered for about 5 minutes, I add an entire bottle (750 ml) of red wine. I then let the sauce cook on a simmer for about 90 minutes, stirring every so often to make sure it doesn’t stick or scorch. When the wine has nearly fully reduced, I add the stock and cook for another 60 minutes, again stirring every so often. When the stock has reduced, I taste the sauce and add more salt and pepper if needed. I then add the milk and simmer, again stirring often.
After about 75 to 90 minutes, the sauce is thick, rich, and ready to use. I like to serve it over fresh pasta or use it in a lasagna.
Unless you are feeding a crowd, you likely won’t be using all of the sauce immediately. No problem! You can store it in the fridge for a few days or freeze it for later use. When reheating, you may need to add a small amount of water to help loosen the sauce back up.
- 300 g onion, finely diced
- 300 g carrot, finely diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp fresh, chopped oregano and thyme
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 400 g cans whole peeled tomatoes
- 750 ml dry red wine
- 500 ml chicken or veal stock
- 375 ml milk
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1000 g ground beef
- 500 g ground pork
- In a large stock pot, add the olive oil.
- Once the pot is hot, add the chopped onion and carrot and season them generously with salt and pepper. Cook the vegetables until they are evenly brown, stirring frequently, about 10 to 15 minutes.
- Crumble in the beef and pork and brown the meat. Season with salt and pepper.
- Add the garlic and fresh chopped herbs.
- Add the tomatoes and tomato paste. Cook and crush the tomatoes. Simmer about 5 minutes.
- Add the red wine. Simmer 60 – 75 minutes. Stir every 20 minutes or so to prevent scorching or sticking.
- When the wine has nearly fully reduced, add the stock and simmer for another 60 – 75 minutes. Stir every 20 minutes or so to prevent scorching or sticking.
- When the stock has reduced, add the milk. Simmer for another 60 – 75 minutes until the sauce is thick and rich. Stir often to prevent sticking or scorching.