1poundground Italian sausageor sausages with casings removed
1(28-oz) can crushed tomatoes
salt and pepperto taste
Heat olive oil in a large, wide pan over medium heat. Add onion, carrot, celery and garlic and sauté slowly until onion has fully softened, about 8-10 minutes.
Add ground beef and sausage and brown over medium-high heat, breaking up meat as it cooks.
Stir in tomato paste, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. Cook for 1-2 minutes, until tomato paste has roasted and smells flavorful (do not burn!).
Pour in red wine, scraping any browned bits off the bottom of the pan. Simmer until wine has reduced by ⅓ (do not simmer any longer, or wine may become too acidic).
Stir in crushed tomatoes and balsamic vinegar, add bay leaves. Bring to a boil once, then reduce heat to a simmer and cover with a lid.
Simmer sauce covered for 1-2 hours, then remove lid and simmer for 15 more minutes, until rich and thick. Season with sugar, salt and pepper to taste. Discard bay leaves before serving.
Sausage: I love using Italian pork sausage in this recipe. Classic is 50/50 ground beef and ground pork, but the sausage does add even more flavor. Feel free to use ground pork in place of the sausage, or all ground beef.
Crushed tomatoes: You can use whole canned tomatoes or diced tomatoes in place of the crushed. Each will yield a slightly different consistency, but they all work.
Red wine: A Chianti is by many considered the best wine to make a Bolognese sauce (unless you swear by white wine in Bolognese – I like it both ways, but a little more with red; I guess because it’s what I grew up with. I know the original-original recipe calls for white wine. This is obviously not the original-original recipe.). But a Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot also works great, although you probably wouldn’t find something with a French name in Nonna’s Bolognese.
Sugar: This is an ingredient you really only need for cheaper canned tomatoes. Very high quality canned tomatoes, or home-canned from the garden, are sweet enough and do not need the sugar. But a few pinches of sugar really can take a sauce made from cheaper canned tomatoes from good to great.
Balsamic vinegar: This is not a traditional ingredient in a Bolognese, but I find it adds a nice touch of flavor to the sauce.
No milk? I also know the original-original recipe calls for milk, but I don’t add it. I have done a lot of research on this topic because I really wanted to like Bolognese with this authentic ingredient. But the milk in there just doesn’t agree with me. Also, if you don’t add the milk in the right way, it easily curdles in the acid from the tomatoes and the wine, so it isn’t as simple as I wanted this recipe to be. Finally, in my research I have found many voices that claim the milk was originally added to the recipe in order to make lower quality meat more supple/to add more fat. If you stick to using half pork sausage and try to reach for higher quality meat, you don’t need to worry about this in my humble opinion. If you want to add dairy for richness/creaminess, I really enjoy some ricotta or mascarpone stirred into the sauce in the end, or just serve it with a lot of Parmesan.
If you don’t want to bother with chopping the vegetables, throw them in a food processor with the blade attachment and pules a few times until they are finely chopped. Super fast and super easy! That’s what we did when we made this recipe for 60 people at an event and it works just as well for a single batch.
Make sure to fully cook and soften the onion in the first step of the recipe. Otherwise, the raw taste will linger in the finished sauce.
Likewise, take your time when browning the meat and when adding the tomato paste to roast. Doing these steps thoroughly will ensure a very flavorful, rich sauce.
We often simmer the sauce for just 20-30 minutes on weeknights, but the flavor when simmering it for 2 hours is definitely a lot more intense.
Fridge: Allow the sauce to cool to room temperature, then pack it into an airtight container and store in the fridge for up to 3 days.Reheat in a pot on the stove until steaming hot all the way through with a little beef broth added.Freezer: Allow the sauce to cool to room temperature, then pack it into freezer-friendy bags or containers. Label with the name and use-by date (freeze for up to 3 months), then place into your freezer.Defrost in the fridge overnight, then reheat on the stove until steaming hot all the way through. You may need to add a little beef broth, but chances are there is some condensation from the freezing/defrosting and you may not need any extra liquid.
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