Actually it’s called ragu alla Bolognese. It’s a long-cooked meat sauce from Bologna, in the northern region of Emilia-Romagna, the culinary heart of Italy.
The ragu is traditionally served with tagliatelle in Bologna, a flat pasta a bit narrower than fettuccine. The pasta’s shape is perfect to maximize the sauce captured on its surface.
Spinach tagliatelle is the favorite in Bologna. I grabbed fresh spinach pasta at Molinari’s Deli on Columbus so I could focus on the ragu.
The ragu has to simmer at least 3 1/2 hours, even longer. I like to make it Sunday morning to eat for lunch or dinner. The aroma will fill your house all day.
You’re building layers of flavor here. Saute minced onion, celery, carrot and pancetta in EVOO and butter. Add the meat and mix them together. Cover it all with wine. Cook off the wine and add milk and nutmeg. Cook those off too, then add the tomatoes and simmer, simmer, simmer. You end up with a thick brick-red ragu with tons of flavor.
When the sauce is done, boil some well-salted water and cook the fresh tagiatelle. That will take about 3 minutes. Put half the sauce in a large bowl. Drain the pasta when al dente and put it in the bowl and mix well with the ragu. Place a serving of pasta on a plate and top with a big spoonful of the ragu. Sprinkle with grated parmigiano reggiano and eat!
The fresh tagliatelle is silky and coated with the ragu. The long simmer intensifies the complexity of the sauce and melds all the flavors together. The dusting of parmigiano reggiano completes this homage to Bologna.
This ragu is for a pound of tagliatelle, fettuccine or your favorite pasta.
When I don’t have time to make my own, one of my favorites in North Beach is Graziano’s ragu alla Bolognese at his Caffe Puccini on Columbus.