Growing up, I thought Bolognese equaled a can of tomato sauce plus a pound of semi-fatty grisly, ground beef. The only version that I was familiar with was not a far cry from canned Chef Boyardee Beef-a-Roni (my saliva production spikes just thinking about it). Somewhere in my culinary awakening (a journey that will continue for the rest of my life) I discovered that Bolognese (meaning Ragu) has many different interpretations—none of which are red, soupy tomato sauce paired with puréed ground beef.
This slow cooked dish is a layering of flavors that begins with finely chopped celery, onion, and carrots sautéed in olive oil. A combination of ground veal and beef (sometimes pork or sausage are used as well) is then added to the pan. Some people add milk, others cream, and depending on what region of Italy you are from, some argue for the addition of several other ingredients, including mushrooms, ricotta cheese, or chopped pancetta. But, no matter which ingredients you use, the dish is cooked ever-so-slowly until all the vegetable flavors and rich textured meats blend together making it other-worldly. Deglaze the pan with a heavy dowsing of wine and your palate will think it went to heaven and back.
Finely chop onions, celery, and carrots. Mince garlic. Place large pot over medium-low heat with olive oil; add onion, celery, and carrots. Sauté until veggies are soft, about 15 minutes. Add garlic, stirring constantly to avoid burning, about 5 more minutes. Add meat and a little bit of salt and fresh ground pepper.
Cook until meat is browned and sweating liquids have dissipated. Deglaze with white wine and scrape the bits off the bottom of the pan. When the wine is completely evaporated, add drained tomatoes and chicken stock. Cook over medium heat 2-2 ½ hours.
When liquids are almost gone, stir in cream and ricotta. Serve over pasta with a sprinkle of cheese and a glass of crisp white wine. Salute! Serves 8.