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When I first received into cooking, I assumed the time period “Bolognese” was simply one other solution to say pink meat sauce. In reality, it wasn’t till I went to culinary college that I discovered Bolognese wasn’t the Italian-American meat sauce my mother and father served me weekly rising up, however reasonably a vegetable and meat braise that’s probably not saucy in any respect.
Bolognese initially hails from Bologna, Italy, therefore the identify ragù alla Bolognese (the phrase ragù interprets to “sauce”). There are many iterations of Bolognese, however most encompass a beef- or pork-based sauce cooked with an fragrant trio of carrots, celery, and onions. The combination is simmered with white wine, milk or cream, and/or chopped complete tomatoes.
Whereas true Bolognese is simply as a lot about the fragrant base of greens as it’s the meat, Italian-American variations are very meat-heavy (and usually use pink wine) and extra harking back to southern Italian dishes. My aim with this showdown was to check each varieties (and just a few that fell in between) to search out the best possible one. Here’s the way it went.
I started by looking for high-ranking, well-reviewed recipes. For the most conventional model, I selected Marcella Hazan’s Italian Bolognese. Hazan had an unlimited affect on the means Americans prepare dinner Italian meals — she was referred to by New York restauranteur Lidia Bastianich as “the first mother of Italian cooking in America.” In the Nineteen Seventies, she caught the eye of the New York Times whereas educating cooking classes out of her Manhattan residence, which launched her profession as a beloved cookbook creator. Her Bolognese is brief on elements, however lengthy on cooking time (it requires a three-hour braise). Would that point funding repay?
I additionally included Grace Parisi’s Bolognese recipe from Food & Wine. Her recipe is just like Marcella’s, however as an alternative of utilizing solely beef, she leans into pork with the addition of pancetta. Her recipe guarantees to be on the desk in simply 90 minutes.
Ina Garten’s weeknight Bolognese may be very extremely rated and comes collectively in properly underneath an hour. Her slimmed-down recipe doesn’t name for any conventional aromatics and makes use of lean sirloin as the meat. Ina has gained a number of Kitchn showdowns, together with pot roast and chocolate cake, so I needed to know: Would the Queen of Comfort reign over Bolognese as properly? Would ease overcome custom? I was decided to search out out.
I cooked all 4 Bolognese recipes on the identical day. Rather than style them with pasta, I saved this battle all about the sauce, realizing the best-tasting sauce would style the finest with noodles, too. I adopted every recipe precisely and used canned San Marzano tomatoes anytime a recipe referred to as for canned tomatoes.
1. Ina Garten’s Weeknight Bolognese
This battle proved that faster isn’t always better. Ina’s recipe starts with lean sirloin instead of a fattier, more flavorful meat like chuck and uses garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes instead of the traditional aromatics. Unfortunately, those flavors were overpowered by the taste of red wine, which didn’t have enough time to cook off, and the final splash of cream sat on my palate in an unpleasing way. I won’t be making this Bolognese again.
2. Anne Burrell’s Pasta Bolognese
Anne’s recipe starts off strong: She uses a high-quality combo of brisket, chuck, and round, and has you chop the aromatics in the food processor to cut down on prep time. Unfortunately, two full cups of tomato paste proved to be too intense, and similar to Ina’s sauce, the flavor of the red wine was overpowering. Ultimately, this recipe took all the time and effort of a Sunday sauce without the rich flavors, deep comfort, and satisfaction that I was looking for. It just felt like a very fancy red sauce.
3. Food & Wine’s Pasta Bolognese, by Grace Parisi
Food & Wine’s recipe comes together in just 90 minutes, so in theory you could whip it up on a weeknight. The use of both pancetta and ground pork made the flavor super porky — in a good way! The white wine and canned tomatoes kept the sauce light and bright, and I liked that it stayed mostly true to a traditional Italian Bolognese. Overall I really liked this recipe and would absolutely make it again, but the ingredients didn’t quite sing the way our winner’s recipe did, which is why it’s taking second place.
4. Marcella Hazan’s Bolognese Meat Sauce
Marcella is the queen of Italian cooking for a reason. This super-traditional Bolognese cannot be beat! She uses the classic aromatic trio of onions, carrots, and celery and brings all the flavors together using white wine, milk, chopped canned tomatoes, and nutmeg. Even though there’s a full cup of wine in the recipe, it’s given more than enough time to cook out, and the tomatoes have ample time to cook down as well so they add flavor without overpowering the dish. The milk simmers for hours and is cooked until the fat separates from the meat, creating the faintest caramel flavor. The marriage of those flavors with the nutmeg plays a magical dance on your palate. I can confidently say it’s the only Bolognese recipe I’ll ever make. Bellissimo!
Do you have a favorite Bolognese recipe? Let us know in the comments!