There are many variations on bolognese sauce. Probably as many as those who cook it. Traditionally though the sauce is packed with meat and not much tomato. This is unlike a lot of spag bol sauces which go heavy on the tomato sauce.
Here is my attempt which uses fresh tomatoes and long-simmering. No canned tomatoes or tomato paste.
some sliced garlic
2 carrots, fine dice
2 celery stalks, fine dice
1 onion, fine dice
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup red wine
10 oz steak, minced
16 oz pork, minced
10 plum tomatoes, peeled, diced
2 T balsamic vinegar
sprig fresh rosemary
wild oregano (dried)
Some of these ingredients are non-standard, but it turned out nicely. Necessity is the mother of invention.
First make your soffritto which I take as finely diced onion, carrot and celery. Known as a mirepoix in France. One thing you might want to add is some diced pancetta, which is a classic ingredient in a bolognese sauce.
Heat the oil in a large pot and add the sliced garlic cloves. Remove them when they start to turn golden brown. Then add the soffritto. Turn the heat down a bit so that the vegetables soften gently.
When the soffritto has softened up add the bay leaf and the meat. I diced a couple of pork chops and a piece of sirloin steak. Feel free to use minced pork and beef. Personally I like the meat to have more texture in a rustic sauce such as this. Cook the meat until it is no longer pink. At this point add the wine. I used a half cup of chianti classico, in keeping with the adage that one should only cook with wine that one would enjoy drinking. This happened to be a mighty fine wine. Stir the pot and reduce the wine down a bit.
Now add the tomatoes. I blanched the plum tomatoes in boiling water for a few seconds, immediately removing them to a bowl of cold running water. They were then peeled and chopped.
I found the tomatoes added enough liquid to the sauce, but you could add a bit of water or stock at this point. If you use canned tomatoes they tend to have quite a lot of liquid so this won’t be an issue. Turn down the heat to a bare simmer. Season lightly with some sea salt and black pepper. Not too much because the sauce will reduce and concentrate flavours. Cover the pot and walk away.
After about an hour add the herbs — a bunch of fresh basil, one sprig of rosemary and some dried wild oregano (from Greece – I remember my Italian cooking prof telling me to go light on the oregano “Because it’s too Greek.” — Sorry.)
Stir in the herbs and put the lid back on. Simmer on low for at least another hour. Check the pot sometimes to make sure there is enough liquid.
When it looks like you have a nice thick sauce, stir in some balsamic vinegar (totally optional — I liked it, and Modena is just down the road from Bologna) and adjust the seasoning.
The pasta here is kamut penne. Kamut is an ancient wheat believed to have originated in Egypt. The pasta has almost a buttery richness while being coarse-textured. It stands up well to the robustness of the sauce.