Darren Wogman |Hungry Darren| Recipe Time - Ragù alla Bolognese
Updated: May 25
Time to put my money where my mouth is. I've spent some time reviewing a number of different meal kits, I've tried to be honest and upfront about what I've enjoyed, what I've not enjoyed and what's really been really disappointing . Now it's time to back myself and try to show some of my foodie credentials.
The reason I've decided to share this specific recipe is that it's something I've tweaked and developed over many years. All starting in Bolgona itself, the home of this dish. I went on holiday there, and I really fell in love. Bologna's 'sub-title' is: The Red, The Fat, The Learned. This is in reference to the three things that have, traditionally, made Bologna famous: The politics (left wing), the food (rich and unctuous) and the university (one of the oldest in the world).
Having spend a lot of time in Italy, I can honestly say Bologna was one of my absolute favourites and I would highly recommend anyone to go, especially carnivores! ..In fact, if you're veggie or vegan, you may well struggle to find something that accommodates you.
Bologna is located alongside Parma and Modena.
Parma. Famous for Parma Ham and Parmesan Cheese, two of Italy's most famous exports.
Modena. Famous for Italy's next most famous export, Balsamic Vinegar.
Straddling these two areas means Bologna is in the perfect area for delightful, rich and gorgeous dishes. Indeed, one of Italy's most popular dishes, Spaghetti Bolognese hailed from here, albeit in a different form to what you might be used to.
A recipe set in law
The Italian Academy of Cuisine, protects the official recipe for Ragù alla Bolognese. Indeed it was notarised and submitted in the Chamber of Commerce of Bologna on 17th October 1982.
Italians take these sorts of things very seriously and the Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) designation applies to Parma Ham, Parmesan Cheese, Balsamic Vinegar and indeed Ragù alla Bolognese alike.
The protected recipe is much shorter than you might expect. It may even be missing some of the ingredients you would associate with a quintessential Spaghetti Bolognese: No garlic, no tomato passata. I've pasted this historic recipe below:
300g beef cartella (thin skirt)
150g dried pancetta
20g tomato puree (triple concentrate)
1 cup whole milk
Half cup red wine
Salt and pepper
The directions are equally slim, to the point and specific:
Cut the pancetta into small cubes, using a mezzaluna knife (one of those rocking bladed knifes).
Heat this slowly in a saucepan until it is melted.
Chop all the vegetables with a mezzaluna knife.
Add these to the pan and stew until soft
Add the beef mince and stir continuously, until it 'spits'.
Add the wine and tomato puree and leave to simmer for approx. 2 hours.
The milk is added bit by bit to slacken the ragù as it cooks.
I learnt how to cook this way when I was in Bologna. I arranged a class with Taste of Italy and had a great day. We first went around the food market, buying the ingredients for what we would be cooking before heading to her flat to make fresh pasta by hand, this dish and a couple of others too.
The Darren Wogman |Hungry Darren| Take on Ragù alla Bolognese
Over time, I've tweaked and changed the classic recipe for one of my own. Purists beware, this is not the classic recipe, by any means. But it is most certainly inspired by the classic.
For me, this has to be tagliatelle pasta, although anything 'stringy' works well. I prefer the wideness of the tagliatelle, the sauce clings to it so well. For a more delicate alternative, try linguine. However, the thinner the pasta, the more sauce you'll get in each bite!
The amounts I use here are also a bit rough, that's how my cooking is.
1 Medium Carrot
1 White Onion
1 Celery Stick
2 Cloves of Garlic
100g (or 1 packet) Dried Pancetta - Must be unsmoked
500g (or 1 packet) of good quality Beef Mince. It should have a decent fat content too!
Large glass of red wine
1 Rich Beef 'Stock Pot' or cube
200g Tomato Passata
250-500ml Whole Milk
Salt and Pepper to taste
Parmesan Cheese to serve
1) Dice all the veg and fine as you can - I have, on occasion, used a food processor (sacrilegious, I know!).
2) Chop the garlic finely, by hand only - keep it apart from the rest of the veg, it needs to go in later.
3) A Darren Wogman |Hungry Darren| top tip. Keep the pancetta in the freezer. Then use a food processor to turn it into a coarse powder. This will be finer than anything you can do by hand. I find warm Pancetta very hard to cut. This tip has been a revelation for me.
4) Put the finely blitzed Pancetta in a large heavy bottomed pan, on a very low heat. Watch as it warms and melts, releasing all that beautiful fat which will be used to sauté the veg and give the base layer of flavour. Don't be afraid to really take your time here, often I don't throw the veg in until I'm looking at dark brown crispy specks of pancetta in foaming fat.
5) Add the veg, mix well and let it all get coated and 'tinted' by the fat. Allow it to soften.
6) Add the chopped garlic, toss it around to mix in and cook off a little, to remove the acridity.
7) Beef now, break it all up and stir it on a very low heat until its all browned. I find if you let the mince 'boil' it releases a lot of fat, which is unpleasant. Keep the fat in the mince, it will make it juicy and delicious.
8) Add the wine. Let is all cook off for a while, so the alcohol is evaporated.
9) Add the passata and stir.
10) Beef stock time, just let this melt into the dish. Don't dilute it with water.
11) Fundamentally, this is now it. But it needs your time, love and affection. Stir it occasionally, to keep all the ingredients incorporated.
12) This is now a judgement call. I let the dish reduce a fair amount, to the point that you might be thinking "Hmm, this doesn't look 'saucey' enough". This means it's time for the milk. A splash at a time. You'll see the whole dish lighten in colour and go a shade of orangey-brown when the milk is fully stirred in.
13) Cook the tagliatelle, al dente. Even a touch under. Drain it, but keep the pasta wet and transfer it straight into the Ragù pot to properly mix in and get coated.
14) Serve into pasta dishes and cover with a good grating of Parmesan Cheese
15) Be smug and tuck in to a dish well worthy of your efforts.