I’m just back from a week’s holidays in Ravello, Italy for my brother’s wedding and I would be lying if I told you I spent the week doing much else aside from eating good food and drinking wine. Ravello is a beautiful town on the Amalfi coast that is set up in the mountains. As our international family descended (as ascended as the case may be) upon Ravello we were so impressed with the food, and most of my memories of the week are spend around a table together catching up, telling stories, laughing, eating and drinking.
I decided to try as many classic Italian dishes as possible, and a few unusual ones that I hadn’t heard of before too. While most of us grew up eating Spaghetti Bolognese at least once a week, it turns out what we were eating is quite different to the way the Italians make it, and by quite, I mean totally different! I am going to tell you exactly how to make an authentic Italian ragu alla bolognese, and then I am going to contradict myself and proceed to break two of rules.
- Never ever ever use tinned tomatoes or passata- the Italians don’t use this at all, they use a few tablespoons of tomato puree, wine and stock.
- Ragu should always be served with tagliatelle, not spaghetti. The Italians feel the spaghetti doesn’t hold as much of the sauce as the tagliatelle does (You see I have already broken this rule by using giant pasta shells… In my defense, I had been a typical tourist and bought loads of pasta and thought the shells would scoop up the sauce nicely, which they did.)
- No garlic. That’s right, they don’t use garlic in their ragu alla bolognese. They usually only use grated carrot, celery and onion. (I broke this by adding cherry tomatoes, but I wanted to add a bit of colour and sweetness to my dish and thought they were a welcome addition)
- The Italians often use a mixture of beef and pork mince or pancetta in their ragu. It gives it a really nice flavour.
- Many Italians use a glass of milk in their beef ragu to give the sauce a smoothness and lightness. I learnt that tip from a Mama in Ravello!
- Give the sauce time, let it simmer away for at least and hour, but if you have time, 2 hours will turn it into a simmering pot of heaven.
I followed these tips with slight deviation below, and made the best bolognase or ragu that I’ve ever tried to make before! Give it a go and let me know what you think!
Ingredients (Serves 3-4)
350 tagliatelle or shells if you’re a rule breaker
100g minced pork
1oog minced beef
1 onion finely minced or chopped
1 celery stick finely minced or chopped
1 carrot finely minced or chopped
1 large handful cherry tomatoes quartered (leave these out if you want to do it fully authentically)
1 glass red wine
1 glass milk
1 cup rich beef stock
4 tbsp tomato puree
Parmesan cheese to serve
1. Gently fry the onion, carrot and celery in a little oil on a low heat until soft. Add the mince and cook, stirring the whole time until browned.
2. When meat is browned, add a glass of red wine and stir until it has all been evaporated. Then stir in the milk, tomato puree, and most of the beef stock (save a 1/4 cup). The milk will make the sauce look really creamy, but after a few minutes of stirring and reducing it will look like a classic ragu.
3. Reduce down the sauce and let your beef and pork ragu simmer away for an hour or so. Add the remaining stock towards the end if needed.
4. Cook your pasta in boiling salted water with a tbsp of olive oil until al dente.
5. Mix the pasta into the pot of sauce and serve with some parmesan cheese.