Classic Bolognese Sauce – A Recipe

Classic Bolognese Sauce   photo by Jen McCarter

When a classic is a classic, let’s keep it a classic. I’m all for experimentation. But after the new-fangled dust settles, let’s go back to homey goodness of what definitely works.

Bolognese Sauce. It’s classic version varies slightly but the usual suspects are still hanging around making sure the taste remains superb.

We recently made Bolognese sauce with fresh-made spinach fettuccine in a class of mine. Oh happy day.

Start off with that trio of bottom-flavor goodness: diced onion, carrot, celery…

Amie and I talking soffritto

Amie and I talking soffritto  photo by Jen McCarter

…AND some minced pancetta.

first ingredients

first ingredients  photo by Jen McCarter

Heat a little olive oil in a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan. Add the onion, carrot, celery, and pancetta…sauté until softened…

soffrito cooking

soffritto cooking

Lindsay sauteing

Now it’s time to add the meat. Ground veal is the traditional ingredient. We added 1 lb. ground veal and 1/2 lb. ground beef.

ground veal and beef

ground veal and beef

Add it to the cooking soffrito and break up the meat into small pieces as you stir…

Lindsay breaking up meat

Cook meat until it loses its raw color…

browned meat

browned meat

Next comes the dry white wine or dry vermouth — about a cup…

pouring in the vermouth

pouring in the vermouth   photo by Jen McCarter

Cook until wine or vermouth evaporates. Now add the other liquid ingredients. We added a 28-oz can of crushed tomatoes and about 2 cups chicken broth…

add tomatoes & broth

add tomatoes & broth

Season with salt & pepper and bring to simmer. Cook uncovered for about an hour or more until the liquids mostly evaporate and the sauce thickens.

cooked Bolognese sauce

cooked Bolognese sauce

We made some fresh made spinach fettuccine (looking for that recipe? let me know!) to go with our Bolognese sauce…

making fresh fettuccine

making fresh fettuccine   photo by Jen McCarter

Spinach Fettuccine w Classic Bolognese Sauce

Spinach Fettuccine w Classic Bolognese Sauce

Bolognese Sauce

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 celery stalk, minced

2 carrots, minced

1 small onion, minced

2 slices pancetta, coarsely chopped

1  1/2 lbs. ground beef or a mixture of beef and veal

1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes

1-2 cups chicken broth

¼ cup heavy cream or milk (optional)

salt & pepper to taste

In a medium heavy saucepan heat the olive oil. When hot add the celery, carrot, and onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the pancetta, cook another 3 minutes. Add the beef/veal and cook, breaking up the clumps until no longer raw. Add the wine. Cook until almost evaporated. Add the tomatoes and broth. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a slow simmer and set heat to low. Let simmer for an hour or two until the liquid has reduced. Add cream and simmer for another 10-15 minutes.

Bonnie serving up the pasta

Thanks to Jen McCarter for some of the photos!

Fav Nashville Eats: Caffe Nonna

Caffe Nonna

Caffe Nonna

So where do you go out to eat Italian food?

Sometimes someone will ask me that.

I’m usually stumped. I don’t often eat out “Italian.” I’ve got a kitchen-full of Italian food and students coming over to cook it with me! So when I go out you’ll find me at a Japanese, Indian, Middle Eastern, Greek, or Chinese restaurant. A pub/sports bar or a meat n’ 3.  A place with a Southern/or Southern re-invention menu. A bakery. A casual American joint.

BUT. I do occasionally get the urge to eat out “Italian.” Usually when I’m hanging with my mom and sister. We each have geiger-counter-style Italian palates that act like false-o meters. The food has got to have the right taste (even if it’s not the sauce you would make at home) — it’s gotta be in the proper “realm” — it has to hit the true Italian “note.”

One place we can rely on is Caffe Nonna in Sylvan Park.

We were there recently and hadn’t been for more than year. One of the waiters recognized us as soon as we walked in and welcomed us as if we were regulars. “Good to see you again! It’s been a while!”

The place is tiny. And full of people. The lighting glows intimately. The room hugs you with warm colors and old world decor. You immediately feel at home.

Caffe Nonna

Caffe Nonna

Their menu has lots of entrees but we get caught up with the pasta choices. Choose from a list of pasta shapes and a list of pasta sauces. Mix and match. That’s immediately such a fun game. Italians are very particular about which pasta shapes go with which pasta sauces. Certain dishes never change: Penne all’Arrabiata, Fettuccine alla Bolognese, Linguine alle Vongole,  Spaghetti alla Carbonara, Bucatini con le Sarde, Fettuccine Alfredo, etc.

I think every other time I’ve eaten here I picked fettuccine with bolognese sauce. This time I went for fettuccine with white clam sauce. I loved NOT choosing the proper linguine or spaghetti. It’s an exotic treat to match fettuccine (the “wrong” pasta shape) with clam sauce! My sister got the same. My mom went for fettuccine, too, but with the bolognese sauce.

While we waited for our dishes we nibbled on bread dipped in seasoned olive oil (they don’t do this in Italy but it’s tasty.)

dip some bread in flavored olive oil

dip some bread in flavored olive oil

When our dishes arrived they looked wonderful. They smelled wonderful. And they were very healthy portions. Each bowl had a tablespoon in it. We each pulled out the spoon and set it aside. You really don’t need a spoon to eat long-stranded pasta. (I’ll tell you how if you think you do.)

The waitress asked if we wanted grated cheese. My mom took some (she thought they put too much but liked it anyway).

fettuccine alla bolognese

fettuccine alla bolognese

You’re not supposed to have cheese on any pasta with fish/clams, etc. in it.

fettuccine with white clam sauce

fettuccine with white clam sauce

But I was feeling rather decadent and asked for some cheese. So did my sister.

fettuccine with white clam sauce and cheese on top

fettuccine with white clam sauce and cheese on top

The pastas are seriously yummy. And I was surprised to find a bit of cream in the “white” clam sauce (which is usually white because it’s not red, but is actually clear with olive oil & white wine). If you would have told me cream was in the sauce I wouldn’t have ordered it. But tasting it (and eating ALL of it) I loved it. In fact, I’m stealing that idea!

empty dish of fettuccine with white clam sauce

empty dish of fettuccine with white clam sauce

My sister and I toasted our wine glasses a few times (my mom sticking to water). Nina had a Pinot Grigio, I loved my Barbera D’Asti.  (The way I pair wines is like this: I pick a dish I want to eat. And I pick a wine I want to drink. They don’t necessarily have to go together but somehow they do….like fettuccine with clam sauce.)

Nina & I toasting our wine

Nina & I toasting our wine

Nina--wine finished!

Nina–wine finished!

Chef Dan even came by the table to see how we liked our dinner. Before we were done we were talking about coming back (that’s like talking about what’s for breakfast tomorrow while you’re having dinner tonight). And we will be back. Thanks, Caffe Nonna!

Caffe Nonna

Caffe Nonna