Bolognese Sauce traces it's origins to the late 1790's in Bologna, Italy. The primary ingredient of Bolognese Sauce is meat...typically some combination of veal, pork and/or beef. Bolognese is typically a red sauce, thanks to the addition of tomatoes to the dish.
I absolutely love Bolognese Sauce. But you don't find many people cooking it, or at restaurants out in the wild. It's a labor intensive dish that requires hours of simmering in order to get it right. My favorite Bolognese sauce recipe eliminates a lot of the labor, but still requires eight hours of simmering in a slow cooker. You can check it out here:
Today's recipe is a totally different take on Bolognese Sauce. It's a tomato-free recipe served at Locanda Verde, a modern Italian taverna inside Robert De Niro's Greenwich Hotel. Chef Carmanelli simmers ground veal and pork in white wine and half-and-half, creating a velvety cream sauce to toss with the pasta. It's every bit as labor intensive as it's red sauce counterpart, but the results are well worth the effort.
For Bolognese Sauce, any pasta will do. However, I am partial to the big wide ribbons you see in the photo. They are called pappardelle. It's not always something that grocery stores carry (it's more of a specialty item). I buy mine in bulk from Amazon.com. Also, this recipe calls for ground veal...which is also difficult to find at most grocery stores. You can have your butcher grind you some, or, do as I do: I find that ground, grass-fed beef is a sufficiently mild enough substitute for veal in this recipe.
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound ground veal
1/2 pound ground pork
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 1/4 cups half-and-half
1 cup chicken stock
1 thyme sprig
1 rosemary sprig
2 sage leaves
1 bay leaf
1 garlic clove, minced
Pinch of crushed red pepper
Pinch of nutmeg
3 strips of bacon
1 cup finely chopped onions
1/4 cup finely chopped white mushrooms
1/4 cup finely chopped celery root
1/2 pound pappardelle
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for serving
- In a large casserole, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the veal and pork and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has evaporated and the meat is nearly cooked through, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the wine and cook over moderate heat, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the casserole, until evaporated, about 3 minutes.
- Add the half-and-half and chicken stock to the casserole, then stir in the thyme, rosemary, sage, bay leaf, garlic, crushed red pepper, nutmeg and a generous pinch each of salt and black pepper. Bring just to a simmer. Cover and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened slightly and the meat is very tender, about 2 hours.
- Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, cook the bacon over moderate heat, stirring, until the fat has rendered, about 5 minutes. Add the onion, mushrooms and celery root and cook, stirring, until the vegetables have softened, about 7 minutes.
- Stir the vegetables into the Bolognese sauce, cover partially and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has reduced just slightly, about 25 minutes longer. Discard the thyme, rosemary, bay leaf and sage leaves. Season the Bolognese sauce with salt and black pepper and keep warm over very low heat.
- In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the pappardelle until al dente. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup of the cooking water. Add the pasta and cooking water to the Bolognese sauce and toss over moderate heat until the pasta is well coated, about 2 minutes. Transfer the pasta to a large, shallow bowl and serve right away, passing Parmigiano-Reggiano at the table.
Wine pairing: Chianti