Lidia’s Meat Sauce Bolognese

I first made Lidia’s Bolognese almost five years ago, the night before Jeff and I ran our first half marathon. My friend Anne Marie drove in from Kansas City to run with us, and the three of us ate this Bolognese with linguini and garlic bread. Meat and carbs. How perfect. And how delicious.  Anytime we’ve got a big race, this is what we eat the night before, and it never fails. It’s also great when the cold weather and short days leave you strangely famished.

There are hundreds of versions of Bolognese. This one is incredibly meaty. It’s part ground beef, part ground pork. However, it doesn’t have the milk or cream that you find in most Bolognese ragus. The aromatics are merely onion, carrot and celery, with three bay leaves thrown in. Hand-crushed tomatoes, tomato paste and red wine give it acidity.

Aside from the taste, one of my favorite things about this sauce is how well it freezes. The recipe makes enough to dress about 1 1/2 pounds of pasta. Double the recipe, freeze part of it and you’re set for several days down the road. Another great thing about this Bolognese is that prep time is minimal. Once ingredients are in the pot, however, the sauce does need to simmer on the stove for at least two hours. The longer the better.

A lot has changed since we first had this Bolognese. Jeff and I bought a house. We graduated to marathon running. And these days, an irresistible little toddler helps me cook.

Lidia’s Meat Sauce Bolognese
barely adapted from Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, minced (about 1 cup)
1 medium carrot, peeled and minced (or finely shredded)
1/2 cup minced celery, with leaves
1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground pork
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 tablespoon tomato paste
3 cups canned Italian plum tomatoes with their liquid (crush in a bowl with your hands)
3 bay leaves
Freshly ground black pepper
4 cups hot water, or as needed

1 1/2 pounds dried or fresh pasta, such as linguini or penne

Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Heat the olive oil in a wide 4- to 5-quart pan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Stir in the onion, carrot and celery, season lightly with salt and cook, stirring, until the onion is translucent, about 4 minutes. Crumble in the ground beef and pork and continue to cook, stirring to break up the meat until all the liquid the meat has given off has evaporated. Cook until meat is lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Pour in the wine and cook, scraping the bottom of the pan, until the wine is evaporated, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and cook a few minutes longer. Pour in the tomatoes, toss in the bay leaves, and season lightly with salt and pepper.

Bring to a boil, then lower the heat so the sauce is at a lively simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is dense but juicy and a rich, dark-red color. This will take about 2 to 3 hours — the longer you cook it the better it will be. While the sauce is cooking, add hot water as needed to keep the meats and veggies covered. A layer of oil may float to the top. It can be removed with a spoon or reincorporated into the sauce.

To serve 2, boil 8 ounces of fresh or dried pasta. To serve 4, boil 16 ounces of pasta. Boil pasta according to package instructions. While pasta is cooking, heat sauce if necessary. Drain pasta, add to sauce, stirring to coat. (If making a smaller amount of pasta, put a smaller amount of sauce in a different sauce pan for this step.) Remove from heat and stir in grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese to taste.


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