This isn't some jar of tomato sauce and ground beef. This Bolognese is the real deal: rich, meaty, and hearty. You’ll be instantly transported to Northern Italy with this family-style favorite.
|6 - 8||30 minutes|
|Cook Time||Passive Time|
|3-1/2 to 4 hours||2-1/2 to 3 hours|
- olive oil or as needed
- 2-1/2 pounds eye top round beef cut into 3 or 4 equal sized piece against the grain (about 1-1/2" thick)
- 6 ounces pancetta or bacon, finely diced
- 1 small yellow onion finely chopped--about 1 cup total
- 2 shallots finely chopped or minced
- 1 small fennel bulb finely chopped--about 3/4 cup total
- 2 - 3 carrots finely chopped--about 3/4 cup total
- 4 - 6 cloves garlic minced or grated
- 1/2 t-spoon chili flakes
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 t-spoons fresh minced rosemary
- 2 t-spoons fresh minced thyme
- 1 t-spoon fresh minced oregano
- 1/2 cup diced tomatoes from a small can, drained of any liquid
- 1 cup dry white wine such as Chardonnay
- 3 cups beef stock or enough to just cover the beef, plus more as needed
- 1/4 - 1/3 cup heavy cream
- 1-1/2 t-spoons kosher salt divided (plus A LOT more for the pasta water)
- 1-1/2 to 2 pounds pasta rigatoni, pappardelle or tagliatelle
- fresh minced parsley to serve
- Parmigiano-Reggiano finely grated or ground, to serve
- Preheat the oven to 350°
- In a large, heavy bottom pot (such as a Dutch oven) add the cubed pancetta or bacon and cook on medium until they cook and crisp and release all of their juices. Remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside. Remove all but 2 tablespoons of fat from the pan, reserving whatever you’ve poured out for now.
- Pat the beef dry and season with a little salt. In two batches, sear the beef on all sides for about 2-3 minutes, until a deeply bronzed and caramelized crust forms. If the pork fat begins to scorch and burn, dump it out from the pan and just add a little of the fat you have in waiting.
- Remove the beef to a plate, loosely wrap with aluminum foil and discard any oil from the pan but do not wipe it clean.
- Add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil or pork fat, if you have any left, to the pan and, once heated over medium heat, add in the onions, carrots and fennel. Sauté the vegetables for about 5-7 minutes, or until they’ve softened and browned just very faintly around their edges, before sprinkling in a little salt.
- Add the shallots, garlic, herbs and tomato paste to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally for 2-3 minutes, while the shallots soften, garlic and herbs infuse everything with their flavor, and the tomato paste melts down and cooks.
- Add the tomatoes and then the wine. Let the wine bubble while you scrape the bottom of the pan of any stuck on brown bits.
- Add the beef and pancetta/bacon back to the pot and pour over enough stock to cover everything just barely. Stir everything to combine. Bring to a full boil, cover, and place in the oven for 2 ½ to 3 hours, until the beef is extremely tender and ready to fall apart.
- Once cooked, remove the beef from the pot to a shallow dish. Take about 1 cup’s worth of liquid from the pot and pour over the beef to keep it moist. Puree the remaining amount of liquid in the pot until it’s smooth. You can keep the pot over the lowest flame possible, covered, to keep warm while you shred the beef.
- Break up the beef slightly, shredding with forks, and add it back to the pot. Here is where you gauge the liquidity or sauciness of your sauce; if your sauce looks very thick—too thick to coat pasta eventually—you’ll want to add a little more beef stock to make it a little more fluid. Odds are you won’t need more than a few splashes, if that.
- Now stir in the cream—as much or as little as you like. Typically, Bolognese is roughly equal parts stock/wine-to-milk, but I prefer adding just enough cream to take the sauce from burnt brick to blushingly hued.
- Check for seasoning and adjust as you see fit.
- To serve, cook the pasta per the package instructions for al dente and reserve some of the cooking water before draining (more is always better). Ultimately, put the pasta water on to boil about 10 minutes before the pot comes out of the oven, and just start boiling the pasta while you shred the beef; the sauce can really be kept warm over the lowest of low flames while the pasta finishes so I wouldn’t be too concerned over timing here.
- Tumble the pasta into the pot and toss gently to combine. If the sauce needs to loosen up a bit to coat the pasta then add the pasta water, just a tablespoon-sized splash at a time. Sprinkle a little Parmigiano in and either decant into a large, wide serving bowl or serve straight out of the Dutch oven.
-This can be made ahead and reheated very easily. Make the whole thing, leaving out the cream at the end, cool and refrigerate as quickly as possible. Let it come to room temperature on the counter for 30 minutes before pouring back into the Dutch oven and into a low oven (300° always works for me) for about 30 minutes. You may find that you need to add a little more beef stock, but probably not more than ½ cup, to make it saucy enough. Once it’s reheated, remove it from the oven, stir in the cream and toss in the pasta.