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Bolognese Ragu (Italian Meat Sauce)

This Bolognese meat sauce, also called a Ragu, is based on an old recipe from the cookbook, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking.  I punched up the ingredients a bit, but the long, slow cooking technique is the same.  Unlike the more robust tomato sauces of southern Italy, this sauce is subtle in flavor yet very complex and delicious.  The long, slow simmering gives the meat a melt-in-your mouth quality.  For me this makes it perfect for dishes, such as stuffed pasta, where it must compliment the other flavors without dominating them.  Don't be daunted by the cooking time, as it only requires you be around to give it a stir from time-to-time.

2 tablespoons    unsalted butter
3 cloves    garlic, minced
½ cup    onion, minced
½ cup    celery, minced
½ cup    carrot, minced
¾ pound    lean ground beef
¾ pound    ground pork
2 cups    whole milk
2 cups    dry white wine
2-28 ounce cans    whole Roma tomatoes in juice
1 teaspoon    crushed red pepper
Salt and Pepper    to taste

You want to use a heavy pot or sauté pan for this, something that holds the heat well.  This will give you better control when you need to have the sauce just barely simmering.

Melt the butter in the sauté pan over medium heat.  Add the next 4 ingredients, and sauté until the veggies are softened, about 5 minutes.  Add the ground beef and pork.  Cook the meat while using the edge of the spoon to break up the meat into small pieces.

Just before the meat begins to brown add the milk.  Return the mixture to a slow boil and allow to reduce until the milk has mostly evaporated.  About 20 to 30 minutes.

Add the wine, return to a boil and allow the sauce to reduce until the wine is mostly evaporated, another 20 to 30 minutes.

While the sauce is reducing drain and chop the tomatoes, reserving the juice.  When the wine has mostly evaporated add the tomatoes, along with the reserved juice, and the red pepper.

Now you want to reduce the flame until the sauce is barely at a simmer - only a bubble or two at a time breaking the surface.  Maintain this simmer, stirring every 30 minutes or so, until the liquid is mostly evaporated.  This should take about 3 to 4 hours.

Adjust salt and pepper to taste.



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