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Verses from my Kitchen: Beef Ragu: My Favourite Bolognese Sauce

February 16, 2011

Beef Ragu: My Favourite Bolognese Sauce

Comfort food. It usually evokes memories of a moment in our past when food brought us together and connected us. It's usually a flavour or ingredient that elicits those feelings and that binds us to a time when things seemed simpler, were simpler. It's the comfort in food that's been an anchor in my life and allows me to remember and never forget. It's able to reach inside us and pull out an emotion attached to it. I take comfort in that.

When we're in the midst of winter and hectic days in which we're pulled in so many different directions that we lose sight of ourselves, nothing slows us down and grounds us more than a bowl of pasta and time with our family. My wife and I will sit around the table with a glass of Merlot and a bowl of of pasta with our favourite bolognese and reconnect with each other and connect with the food in front of us. We can hear the tic of the clock slow down, the heart beat relaxes a bit and we exhale.
When I think of spaghetti bolognese I immediately think of sitting by the fire with the snow pounding the concrete outside. The wind whistles through the windows and I stay inside with the food, my family and the warmth that comes from both. It's comforting. It's classic. It's simple, which may be best of all. The vision ignites us and carries us.

I love the anticipation that comes with this sauce. We've had it so many times that I can recite the aroma that comes off the pan by heart. I can pinpoint the exact mood it puts me in as the scent permeates the kitchen and main floor. This sauce is like my best friend, because it knows how to make me happy. The first spoonful to taste as it simmers away always sets up the rest of the evening. It's like the first note of a song that you know by heart.

Bolognese is more than just a sauce, it's also the base for a great lasagna. It's many things to many people. For me, it's the answer to the comfort we need and seek out. To my family, it's the perfect Sunday meal and the best opportunity for us to act as one. It is my labour of love.

From my kitchen to yours, happy eating!

Beef Ragu

The Goods:
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 3 slices pancetta, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 1 can tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 2 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 bay leaf
  • small handful sage leaves, chopped
  • pinch of sugar
  • sea salt and ground pepper, to taste
  • Parmesan (garnish)
  • chopped parsley (garnish)
  1. In a large heavy saucepan, cook the beef over medium-high heat, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, for about 5 minutes and until no longer pink. Remove the beef and set aside, drain fat from the pan.
  2. In the same pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add the pancetta, onion, garlic, carrots, celery and oregano, stirring often and until vegetables have softened, about 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Add cream to the pot and simmer until it evaporates. Add in the tomatoes and crush with a potato masher. Return the beef to the pan and add in the wine, paste and sugar. Add in the bay leaf and chopped sage. Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce and simmer for 30-45 minutes until it thickens. Discard the bay leaf and serve.

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At February 16, 2011 at 4:44 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mmm this recipe looks great. I'm hungry and blog surfing, and this isn't helping! Great post!

At February 16, 2011 at 5:34 PM , Blogger Carolyn said...

Ooo, the pancetta in there is a great little flavouring. It sounds wonderful!

At February 16, 2011 at 5:51 PM , Blogger All That's Left Are The Crumbs said...

I love the ingredients in this ragu. It sounds like a winner to me.

At February 16, 2011 at 5:58 PM , Blogger Lynds said...

This looks and sounds delicious! Now I'm craving a good Spaghetti Bolognese, glass of red wine and a relaxing evening!

At February 16, 2011 at 6:51 PM , Blogger ThreeTastes said...

Simplest, best ingredients really win the day -- and your description of how warm and comforting this is almost makes me regret that we went from the 30s last week to mid50s today! Almost... Lucky family that has this meal waiting for them by a fire!

At February 16, 2011 at 10:13 PM , Blogger Michael Lewicki said...

Raptor, thank you. Surfing while hungry is the same as shopping while hungry. Not good.

Thanks Carolyn! Love pancetta!

Felice, it was definitely a winner for us! Thank you!

Thank you Lynds! Nothing beats that combination when you need comfort food and a bottle of wine.

Thank you Manju. This time of year the temperature could easily dip again. Keep your fingers crossed!

At February 17, 2011 at 1:21 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know? I never make this type of gravy, and everytime I see it posted or written about, I wonder why?! I should really do something about this strange state of affairs! Your recipe is an easy one to follow ... promise to self - within the next week I will make Bolognese!

At February 17, 2011 at 1:56 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...


At February 18, 2011 at 6:35 AM , Blogger Lizzy said...

We have snow (ugh) in the forecast again...this is the perfect meal for a cold day...so delicious and comforting!

At February 18, 2011 at 3:19 PM , Blogger Diethood.com said...

I can see why it's your favorite! I love everything that you've put in this ragu...especially that pancetta.


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