Make Ahead

My Favorite Bolognese

October  7, 2019
Photo by James Ransom. Food Stylist: Anna Billingskog. Prop Stylist: Brooke Deonarine.
Author Notes

Everyone seems to have their own spin on how to make bolognese. My version is based on the ragu used in Bologna to make traditional lasagna bolognese. The longer you can slowly simmer this sauce, the better it will taste. I use a mix of ground beef, pork, and veal in my bolognese (although you can certainly experiment with whatever combination of ground meat you want). The true secret ingredient here is the bouquet garni containing a parm rind and prosciutto scraps. You might be able to obtain free prosciutto scraps by going to any store where they slice prosciutto to order and asking what they do with the stump of the leg when it gets too small to slice. Some stores will simply give you that prosciutto stump for free. —Josh Cohen

Watch This Recipe
My Favorite Bolognese
  • Prep time 20 minutes
  • Cook time 4 hours
  • Makes about 9 cups
  • 1 piece Parmesan rind
  • 1 piece prosciutto scrap, from the base of the leg
  • 2 bay leaves
  • A few sprigs fresh thyme
  • Canola oil
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 pound ground veal
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1 (750-milliliter) bottle dry red wine
  • 2 cups unsalted veal stock (or unsalted chicken stock)
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
In This Recipe
  1. Make your bouquet garni by placing the parmesan rind, prosciutto scrap, bay leaves, and thyme in a piece of cheesecloth. Tie the cheesecloth into a tight bundle using twine. Set your bouquet garni aside.
  2. Set a large pot over high heat and add just enough canola oil to thinly coat the bottom of the pot. When the oil just begins to smoke, add the ground beef to the pot. Season it with a couple pinches of salt and a few cracks of freshly ground black pepper. Cook the ground beef until it begins to brown and caramelize. You'll get more caramelization if you wait one minute before stirring, and if you press the meat flat against the bottom of the pot to create more surface area. When the ground beef is fully cooked and somewhat caramelized, move the pot off the heat and use a slotted spoon to transfer the ground beef to a bowl. Repeat this cooking process with the ground pork and ground veal. Cooking the ground meat in batches prevents overcrowding the pot, helping you to caramelize the meat rather than steam it. When all of your ground meat is cooked, add it all back into the pot, along with the minced garlic, and cook for 1 minute over high heat, stirring consistently.
  3. Add the tomatoes and their juices to the pot along with a couple pinches of salt. Reduce the heat to medium, and use a wooden spoon to crush the whole peeled tomatoes. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring consistently and crushing the whole tomatoes whenever you see them. Next, add the red wine, and add your bouquet garni. Make sure the bouquet garni is fully submerged under the liquid of the pot. Cook for 75 to 90 minutes, stirring every 20 minutes or so, making sure to use the spoon to scrape the bottom of the pot in order to prevent scorching. Adjust the heat so that the sauce is gently simmering.
  4. When the wine has nearly fully reduced, add the stock, and continue to gently simmer the sauce for another 60 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent any scorching. When the stock has reduced and the sauce appears to be thickening, add the milk. Cook for approximately 75 to 90 minutes, until the sauce looks rich and thick. Stir occasionally to prevent scorching. You want to take the sauce off the heat when it looks thick and rich, but when it still has a little liquidity to it. The sauce will continue to thicken as it cools.
  5. When you're ready to take the sauce off the heat, remove the bouquet garni, and squeeze it to make sure you've extracted all the liquid and flavor from it. You can then discard the bouquet garni (although the cooked prosciutto scrap is good flaked in an omelette if you want to save that meat). Stir the sauce and taste. Add more salt as necessary. Use the sauce immediately or store it in the fridge for a few days and use it when you're ready. If you're reheating cold sauce from the fridge, add 1/4 cup of water while you reheat it to help loosen the sauce back up.

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Josh Cohen

Recipe by: Josh Cohen

Born and raised in Brooklyn, I’m perpetually inspired by the diversity of foods that exist in this city. I love shopping at the farmer’s market, making ingredients taste like the best versions of themselves, and rolling fresh pasta. I learned how to make fresh pasta in Italy, where I spent the first 6 months of my career as a chef. I've been cooking professionally in New York City since 2010.