A Bolognese or ragu sauce is a thick, full-bodied meat sauce that's a staple in northern Italy's
Bologna region. In my family, a big bowl of Pasta Bolognese is perfect anytime, be it for a
weeknight dinner, Sunday brunch, or the Super Bowl on television. I have even been known
to eat this pasta for breakfast; I can't help it, I'm Italian!
16 ounces pasta, prepared according to package directions, (I like spaghetti, bucatini, radiatore, or orecchiette)
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin first cold press olive oil
1 pound ground Italian sausage, sweet, mild, or hot
1 pound hamburger, pancetta, ground turkey, or ground chicken
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, diced
1 Tablespoon Italian Seasoning, or more to taste
Pinch - 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Pinch of dried fennel, optional*
3/4 cups dry red wine, your choice, divided
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, when I can find them I use San Marzano tomatoes*
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
1 small can black olives, sliced, optional
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves, lightly packed
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
- Heat olive oil in a large skillet or saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the Italian sausage and cook, crumbling the meat with a wooden spoon, for 5 to 7 minutes, until the meat has lost its pink color and has started to brown. Drain fat from pan. Add the garlic, onion, Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes and, if using, dried fennel, and sauté until garlic and onions are translucent, about a minute or so. Add one-half cup of the wine into the skillet and stir to scrape up any browned bits. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, 1 teaspoon kosher salt and black pepper, stirring until combined. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the black olives, if using, and the nutmeg, fresh basil, cream, Parmesan cheese, and the remaining 1/4 cup wine to the sauce and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until thickened.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add a small handful more of salt and the pasta, and cook according to the directions on the box. The salt brings out the flavor of the pasta.
- When the pasta is cooked al dente, drain and pour into a large serving bowl. Serve hot with
Parmesan cheese on the side, slices of toasted crusty garlic bread and a green salad drizzled
with freshly made vinaigrette and olive oil salad dressing.
Note: A pinch of dried fennel adds a freshness to the tomatoes that, in my opinion, makes
the tomatoes in the sauce taste like they were fresh-picked from a summer garden.
Note: San Marzano is a small town near Naples, Italy that grows the most wonderful tomatoes in my opinion. Marzano tomatoes are thinner and pointier in shape. The flesh is much thicker with fewer seeds, and the taste is much stronger, sweeter and less acidic. Some of the brands (Cento) have San Marzano on the label. Nina, La Bella, Solinia, Vantia, and Strianese are other brands that come from this region in Italy. You can also purchase the brand San Marzano from a couple of area stores.