Thursday, May 10, 2012

This Grama's Bolognese Sauce

There are as many Italian Bolognese Sauce recipes as there are Italian Grandmothers; and as many as there are Italian chefs, just including those in the United States. When you talk of all the recipes written in English we're talking ad infinitum.  Bolognese Sauce belongs to the Ragu family and originates in Bologna, Italy.  In fact in Bologna, Italy, it's not called Bolognese Sauce at all, but rather Ragu Sauce.  Ragu was introduced into the Italian cuisine in the late 18th century following the Napolean invasion in 1796 with the subsequent control of northern Italy by the French.  So though Bolognese is decidedly Italian, it's roots actually originated in France before the Italians made it their own.  The French do love their sauces! Bolognese (Ragu) Sauce is a meat based sauce for pasta- and of course the variations are endless. Prior to the French Napolian occupation, the Italians ate their pasta in a broth- not a sauce.

My search to find a Bolognese Sauce to call my own was rather a search for efficiency. I know, I know, I know- that sounds a whole lot more like Don than it does me- but he does seem to rub off on me over time.  And our family is EXPANDING!  Why with 7 children and 8 soon to be 9 grandchildren (and I predict this number will go higher) what we need is an Italian Grandmother who can cook for a crowd.  Well I'm certainly not an Italian Grandmother, but all of the kids and grandkids are just going to have to live with what they have.  

But back to the efficiency search.  When the kids and grands come to town there is plenty of preparation to do which doesn't leave much time for yet another search for a Bolognese Sauce recipe to use.  Besides I really want a recipe that's mine- the same recipe that is mine every time they come for a visit!  This one is it!  So let's gather the ingredients and start cooking!

Grama's Bolognese Sauce: adapted from multiple sources though I'd like to give special credit to Johanna, originally from the Philippines, now residing in Chicago.  You can find her here.  There's a bit of an Italian Grandmother in us all!


2 pounds of ground Italian Sausage 
1 pound of ground lean beef
1/4 pound of Prosciutto, sliced into small strips (you can substitute bacon)
(Of course I get ours from our local meat market!)

2 Tbsp of olive oil
1 1/2 yellow onion, diced
3 stalks of celery, sliced thin
8 cloves of garlic, minced (we really, really like garlic!)
3 carrots, diced
1 red pepper, diced
2 green peppers, diced
1/2 fennel, diced
1 cup of minced parsley, (add late in the cooking)

 2 large cans of diced tomatoes
3 Tbsp of tomato paste
1- 2 Tbsp of anchovy paste, optional

1/2 cup of sweet red wine
1/4 cup of heavy cream, (also called "whipping cream"), Optional
1 to 1 1/2 cups of broth to desired thickness, (I use vegetable, but could use chicken or beef.)

3 Tbsp of Italian Seasoning or combination of basil, oregano, thyme and rosemary.  (I use "dry" rather than "fresh"- but in summer I'd use the fresh from our garden.)
1 Tbsp of red pepper flakes, (use more or less depending on how much "heat" you want in final dish)
Salt and Pepper to taste


Brown the meats in a large Dutch Oven. I love, love, love my cast iron with an enamel coating!
Drain the grease off and remove the meat from the pan.

Heat the olive oil in the pan.  
Add onions and celery and fennel.  Cook until onion is glistening in color.  
Add in the garlic, carrots, peppers.  Cook until slightly softened.  Return the meat to the pot. 
Add the seasonings. 
Add the canned tomatoes, the tomato paste, anchovy paste and the sweet wine.  
Add enough broth for desired thickness.  Save the broth because you'll probably want to "thin" a bit as the liquid cooks away.
Bring the mixture to a light boil and then lower the temperature until the sauce is barely simmering. Cover the pot during cooking.

Cook for at least 2 hours- though don't hesitate to simmer up to 4 hours- just don't let it get dry and burn on the bottom, as this would totally ruin the taste! You can also cook in an oven heated to 300 degrees if this works better for you. Again the pot needs to be covered!
Add the cream and the parsley at the end of the cooking.  The cream will give it a slightly "pink" color- typical of Bolognese Sauces.

You can serve with the pasta of your choice.

Or if you'd like fry up Polenta...

And serve on top of this. 

I like mine with a good bottle of Chianti!