Dr. Stu’s Sugo alla Bolognese

Dr. Stu, an old friend who has shared a number of delightful recipes with us over the years, read my recipe for Sugo alla Bolognese, and asks, “How can you give a recipe for this dish without milk? I am not supposed to mix milk and meat because of my religion, but, for this dish I make an exception. I have made it only once, but, it is never to be forgotten. I put the recipe together from many sources. All of which came from Italy near Bologna…just give it a try and see what you think. You will love it.”

  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons Butter
  • 1 Large carrot, squared off and made into small dice
  • 1 Small onion, cut into same size dice as carrot
  • 2 Stalk celery, cut up into same size dice a carrot and onion and in the same amount
  • 1 1/2 pounds (650 g) ground beef and veal, this is an approx. and small variations from this weight is not significant
  • 1 Cup (250 ml) whole milk
  • 1 Cup (250 ml) dry white wine
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1 28-Ounce can (1 k) Italian whole or crushed tomatoes, I buy the Carmelina ‘e..San Marzano Pomodori Pelati Italiani
  • 1 Pinch ground allspice
  • 3/4 Pound (300 g) dry penne pasta, boiled up at time of service
  • Parmesan cheese for grating freshly over the dish

The instructions are of course Stu’s:

“This recipe is a compilation of multiple sources, extracting the best of each. It results in the creation of an intensely flavorful meat sauce to serve over penne pasta with Parmigiano Reggiano cheese shredded over it. This meat sauce originated in the area of Italy about Bologna. It was made early in the day and allowed to simmer, very, very slowly for many hours, at least 3 and ideally 4.

“Instructions: Although this dish is a peasant dish, there are items of technique here that should be followed to have it turn out as best as it can be. Begin with a heavy bottomed pot medium to large size. If you have a Dutch Oven, that is ideal. Place the oil and butter into the pot and bring to medium-high heat.

“Add the diced carrot, onion and celery and stir well to coat with the oils and allow to soften for about 6 minutes but DO NOT BROWN THE ONION OR CELERY, just soften…wilt them. It’s also called sweating them, but, that’s neither here nor there.

“Now, add all the meat to the pot. Here is where there is the most work involved. Using a large wooden spoon keep breaking up the meat into smaller and smaller pieces as it cooks. Do not brown it. Don’t let it sit in the hot oil on the bottom of the pot and brown. It should just loose its color. Keep working on the meat and keep breaking it up into smaller and smaller pieces.

“When it has lost all its pink color and you have made it into little bits, then, pour in the one cup of whole milk and turn up the heat so that the milk boils and stir it well and allow the milk to totally boil away so that you only see the olive oil and butter between the meat pieces and vegetables. This will take about 20 minutes.

“Now add the cup of white wine and boil it away too. When it has also disappeared, leaving only the oil visible, then add the tomato product. I pour the entire can into the pot and use the wooden spoon to break up the whole tomatoes into large chunks. Add the salt and the pinch of allspice, stir well and turn down the heat to allow the mixture to simmer very very gently, so only an occasional bubble comes to the surface. Do not cover. Allow this to simmer slowly for three to four hours stirring occasionally.

“Make your pasta. Drain it, but, not entirely dry. Add about a cup of meat sauce to the pot with the pasta and stir it well. Plate this hot pasta which you have colored with the sauce into a pasta bowl. Spoon the Bolognese over it and grate lots of Parmesan cheese over it.

“Serve with a wonderful salad made with Italian peppers, marinated artichokes, Italian olives, chunks of Italian cheeses, matchstick slices of Italian salumi (cold cuts), sprinkling of pine nuts and finally dressed with a wonderful dressing of balsamic vinegar and mixture of vegetable and olive oil, salt, pepper, dry oregano and basil.

“My only observation would be that this is not peasant food. At least not every-day peasant food, because the poverty of the Italian peasantry was such that until after WWII they would have used this amount of ground meat only if they had something to celebrate. Folks of the middle class would have enjoyed it, however. My other observation: This would be nice with a Sangiovese di Romagna.”

Me again. Stu’s recipe does hue closely, though with more tomato, to what the Accademia Italiana della Cucina has declared the to be the official recipe  (link in Italian), which includes the milk that Artusi suggests (his original recipe, in Italian; he actually suggests a half cup of cream, and completely omits tomatoes, which are included in the Official Recipe). Very tasty!

A last observation: The official recipe doesn’t call for ground beef, but rather “cartella di manzo,” which would be flank brisket in English, a cut that is flavorful and rather fatty, and requires long cooking. It would be finely chopped, not ground.

More Sugo alla Bolognese:

My recipe, which includes some tomato paste, and is made with ground beef per the Tuscan custom.

An illustrated Bolognese variation that includes ossibuchi, veal shanks, stewed in the sauce (they make for a wonderful second course).


Tags: , , , , ,

Categories: First Courses from Emilia Romagna, Meat Sauces For Pasta

Author:Cosa Bolle in Pentola

Italy boasts an astonishing number of varietals, denominations, and wines, and tremendous changes are sweeping the land. New wines are being created, new DOCs are being introduced, and the existing denominations are overhauling their regulations both to reflect the practices adopted by their member wineries and to favor improvements in quality. Even the most staid and stolid region can flower seemingly overnight, emerging with exciting new wines and wineries that require rewriting the enological maps and rethinking one's positions. And, of course, recipes too, because cuisine and wine are closely intertwined and it's difficult to imagine one without the other.


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