My Favorite Bolognese
Popular on Food52
Eileen R. March 5, 2021
I am wondering why the milk toward the end? I always through that the time and reason to add the milk was to the meat after it is browned -- simmering for a few minutes - so that it tempers the acidity of the tomatoes- when they are added.
Josh C. March 5, 2021
Hi Eileen, the milk softens and tenderizes the meat in the bolognese sauce. I like adding the milk at the end because I do not want it to cook/reduce too much. This way it also doesn't interact too much with the acidic red wine (letting the alcohol cook off and reduce will help ensure the milk doesn't accidentally break/curdle while it cooks).
Smaug March 6, 2021
Absolutely the most misunderstood step of this dish; you're right, it needs to be done at the beginning of the recipe, before any acid (wine or tomatoes) is added. The meat proteins combine with the milk proteins to produce a unique texture. Meat shouldn't be browned, though, just barely cooked.
Eileen R. March 6, 2021
ok. That's the way I've always done it but now am at a crossroads I'm not sure I want to cross but may need to: 2 out of 3 are rather dairy-sensitive. That said, hard cheese (parm) is fine. But..and here's the but, I don't keep cow milk in the house anymore and we've all transitioned to oat milk (and sometimes a bit of almond milk) for coffee and cereal and smoothies. SO...I like the tempering of the acidity that milk provides. Any chance I can safely add either: 1. oatmilk or 2. coconut milk to achieve the same effect? Of does it just enrich and not temper the acidity? I feel like I'm jumping off a cliff here but ready to try a slightly different path.
Smaug March 6, 2021
Well, the milk's effect on the meat is from milk proteins, which are unique, so there's no obvious substitute. Most of the flavor of the tomatoes is in the acid range, hopefully tempered by sweetness though that can be difficult to come by with commercial tomatoes. If you find the acidity excessive, you could add some fat to tone it down- milk fat will help, but you really don't want a milky sauce and milk itself contains lactic acid; I presume that oat milk contains some fat, and coconut milk often contains a lot, but it adds its own taste. Some people (I'm not one) like to add olive oil or butter. In a deesperate casee I suppose you could try baking soda, but I don't like the idea and wouldn't do it myself.
Anna P. January 19, 2021
This recipe sounds delicious, but I’m confused a bit. I’m planning on making it this weekend and I’m just wondering that if I have to crush the whole tomatoes then why not just buy crushed tomatoes? In the video it mentions that I do not need to add all of the tomato juices, but in the instructions it states to “add the tomatoes & their juices.” If someone could clarify I would appreciate it.
Josh C. January 19, 2021
Hi Anna, as hand-crushed whole peeled tomatoes simmer and break down they add body to a sauce in a way that canned crushed tomatoes do not. It's a subtle difference though. A far as the discrepancy between the video and the written recipe, I'm sorry for that. I think in the video we eliminated the "juices" because there were some time constraints and we had to film it as quickly as possible - I apologize again for that. Only skip the juices if you're in a rush.
Anna P. January 19, 2021
No need to apologize, I understand! Thank you so much for your response. I will remember this tip regarding the tomatoes from now on. I’m very excited to make this soon. :)
Jean May 29, 2020
I never knew there was so much to creating bolognese, but it was my favorite dish at a wonderful Italian restaurant in Atlanta owned by a chef who had a colorful past and had trained in Italy. I couldn’t help but order it every time I went there. When I moved to the Charleston area I mourned the loss of that bolognese and knew I had to try to make my own. This recipe hits all the high notes and rivals, for for fork, my Atlanta restaurant version. I will make it over and over again. The extensive time involved only makes it that much better (and it’s the perfect way to spend a quarantine day). Thank you for sharing!
Andy Z. December 24, 2019
I have a recipe for Lasagna Bolognese that I got from a work associates grandmother from Bologna Italy. The ingredient list is simple but the results are amazingly delicious. I usually simmer the sauce for about 3 hours minimum and as you said, the longer the simmer the more flavor you develop. My recipe is quite different than yours though with no browning of the meat (as Smaug notes below) and no umami add-ins. Thanks for your recipe!
Smaug November 22, 2019
Like most recent Bolognese recipes I've seen, this one is virtually the antithesis of the Marcela Hazan recipe I use. Two major differences; "Umami" has become a fad- though it's been known and used forever, having found a name for it it's become a thing; recipes tend to umami load to the max in the name of "building flavor" though in truth it is often muddying the basic flavors. The Hazan recipe specifically avoids browning of the meat ("just until it's lost it's raw look")or onions, uses white wine rather than red and skips currently popular add ins such as the "bouquet garni" in this one, or anchovy paste, tomato paste etc. often used nowadays. No stock is added' the wine is reduced at the beginning and the liquid comes from the tomatoes. The other big difference is the milk; it is completely reduced before the wine is added. As far as I can tell what's happening, the milk proteins denature and combine with proteins from the meat- at any rate the milk soon becomes transparent and the meat is transformed by combining with the milk solids; the finished dish does not visibly show any signs that it contains milk. The overall effect is an airy yet powerfully flavored sauce totally different from the dark, heavy dishes modern recipes tend to produce, a complete difference in philosophy.
Ethel B. May 12, 2020
You are right on. Or maybe i should say Marcella is right on. We both lived there, although she longer than I. I lived in Bologna for 7 years. There are no mushrooms, no thyme, no 1-1/2 C of milk, no red wine, rather white. And to make it the true traditional way, which no one does anymore, beef and pork (2:1) with, (now get this), ground up chicken livers that are sauteéd with the sofritto (the carrots, celery and onions). No sauce in the northern part of italy is simmered for 3 hrs., 45 min max. But the ragù should sit for a long while, which probably subs for the long simmer. And the next day? Absolutely superb.
Smaug May 13, 2020
I remember the chicken livers from a Giuliani Bugialli recipe; I don't eat chicken in any form so always skipped it, but I do have to dig out that cookbook again.
See what other Food52ers are saying.