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By Doreen Colondres

Italy has always been romantic. This is why we all want to eat pasta on Valentine’s night, and Romeo and Juliet fell in love in the city of Verona. We all dream of a night under the stars, whether in a Tuscan castle, its enchanting beaches in the South, its majestic lakes in the North or in a gondola in the great Venezia.

Bologna is a city very rich in history, intellect and culture. It was the city with the first university in the world. Bologna’s architecture is fascinating, and to top it off it is a paradise for those of us who love gastronomy. It is the capital of the Emilia-Romagna region, where many of Italy’s best-known cheeses, recipes, meats, vinegars, and wine come from.

The bolognese is one of them. The name of the recipe has traveled the world, although it is misused, because outside of Italy, what is served as such is not close to the classic version.

In Bologna this sauce is made from vegetables and beef or solely beef. The history of Bolognese sauce dates back to the Roman Empire and the conquest of the Gallic countries, now France.

Due to its terrible misuse, the traditional recipe was registered in 1982 at the Italian Academy of Cuisine and the Tortellino Brotherhood, later making it a World Heritage Site.

The current recipe consists of frying carrots, garlic, onion, celery, prosciutto or pancetta, concentrated tomato paste, white or red wine and a splash of milk in olive oil. The rest is to cook over a very low heat so that all the flavors intensify. In other words, no cream, no butter, no tomato sauce, no basil.

In the traditional recipe, the meat was cooked in milk because it was ox, the truth is that it adds softness to the recipe, I like that touch, as well as mixing two or three types of meat to intensify the flavor.

Here is my version of the Bolognese that I learned to make in the city of Modena, adjacent to Bologna.

What you need:

  • 1 1/2 pounds ground meat (beef, veal, pork)
  • 1 lb. Gemelli pasta or pappardelle
  • 2 oz. Italian pancetta or prosciutto
  • 3/4 cup red wine (a bold style will be better)
  • 2 tbsp. pure tomato paste
  • 2 tbsp. Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 white onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1-2 carrots, peeled and small diced
  • 1 celery, cleaned and finely chopped
  • 4 cloves of fresh garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Parmigiano Reggiano cheese to taste
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth (optional)

What you have to do:

In a large pot over medium heat, add the olive oil and the pancetta or prosciutto for 2-3 minutes. Remove and set aside.  In the same pot, sauté the garlic, onion, carrot, and celery and cook until very tender. Don’t let them burn, just let them sweat and soften for about 5-7 minutes and set aside.  Increase the temperature. Add the meat, salt and pepper to taste and brown it well for 3-5 minutes. Add a little of the tomato paste, then the wine and let it evaporate while you continue stirring.  Add the pancetta or prosciutto, vegetables, bay leaves, milk, cover and cook on very low heat for 30 or up to 60-90 minutes if you have time. If you need to add a bit of liquid, add a little vegetable broth.  While the meat is cooking, boil the pasta in salted water until al dente. Strain and set aside.  Immediately mix the pasta with the meat, grate some Parmigiano Reggiano and pour a glass of local red wine (Lambrusco is the classic pairing).

Bon Appetito!

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