In September of 2015, we rented a villa in Tuscany along with our two favorite couples, Steve and Taffy Hirtz and Scott and Debbie Drill. It was a spectacular trip. One of the day trips we took was to Siena, an ancient Italian town first settled in 900 BC. Siena has an enormous plaza in the center of town which is used twice a year to run the Palio di Siena...an absolutely insane horse race. Ten riders race bareback for three laps at full speed. It is not out of the ordinary for a jockey to rip a competitor from his mount and many of the horses cross the finish line with no rider. Fatalities, too, are not an uncommon occurrence.
Unfortunately, we were not there during race season. But we hit Siena on a beautiful, sunny fall day and started out with lunch at a spectacular outdoor cafe. I ordered Bolognese with Pappardelle. It was so unlike anything I had ever tasted in the U.S. I've tried a ton of different bolognese recipes and none quite compared to what I had in Siena.
I've got two bolognese recipes in this blog, but they don't hold a candle to what I ate in Italy that day. The ones I've tried in America tend to be tomato-oriented and overburdened with Italian herbs. What I had in Siena was totally different. It was first and foremost a meat sauce...all the other ingredients played a minor supporting role. But Bolognese isn't meat heavy. Bolognese is amazingly delicate, rich in umami, creamy and understated.
The recipe to make authentic bolognese is not difficult. The key is that under no circumstances can the process be rushed. The only way to get a sauce this rich is time. It takes a full four hours of simmering for bolognese to reach perfection. When finely dicing the vegetables, it is of great benefit to the sauce if the dice of all are the same, small size. As for the pasta, you need one that can handle the heft of the sauce. Pappardelle is a thick, ribbon-like pasta that completely complements the sauce. This is a Marie Asselin recipe based on the Academia Italian della Cucina recipe registered with the Bologna Chamber of Commerce.
2 + 2 tablespoons olive oil
1-1/4 pounds lean ground beef
1 large yellow onion, finely and evenly diced