James Whelan Butchers: Ragù: Meat Sauce, Bolognese Style

Marcella Hazan’s Classic Italian Cookbook is one of the greats, essential in any comprehensive library of cookbooks. Hazan is credited with having introduced authentic Italian cooking to America, and her recipes are always restrained and simple. Her ragù is a no-frills version – it contains no pork and no chicken livers, no garlic and no herbs. Hazan says there are three essentials to its success: the meat is to be sautéed only long enough to lose its raw colour – it should not brown as it will lose delicacy; the milk must be added before the tomatoes to keep the meat creamy and sweet tasting; and the sauce must cook at a long and very gentle simmer – three and a half hours at least, preferably five.

Ragu- meat sauce bolognese style – Printer Friendly Download


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 40 g butter
  • 1 medium onion, chopped small
  • ½ large stick celery, chopped small
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped small
  • 350 g minced beef, not too lean, preferably chuck
  • sea salt
  • 240 ml dry white wine
  • 120 ml milk
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1 x 400 g tin chopped Italian tomatoes
Serves 6 as a modest primi piatti, or 3 as a substantial main course

To Cook

In a heavy, deep cast iron casserole dish, heat the oil and butter and add the onion. Sauté briefly over a medium heat until just translucent. Add the celery and carrot and cook gently for two minutes.

Add the minced beef, crumbling it into the pot with a fork. Add one teaspoon of sea salt, stir, and cook only until the meat has lost its raw, red colour.

Add the wine, turn the heat up to medium high and cook, stirring occasionally, until all the wine has evaporated. Turn the heat down to medium, add the milk and the nutmeg. Cook until the milk has evaporated, stirring frequently. Add the tomatoes and stir thoroughly.

When the tomatoes have started to bubble, turn the heat down and cook the sauce at the laziest simmer, with just an occasional bubble.

Cook, uncovered, for at least 3½–4 hours, stirring occasionally. Taste and correct for salt.

Serve with about 50 g of spaghetti per person as a starter, or around 100 g per person as a main course.

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