I’ve made this iconic dish for years and experimented with it in many different ways, using many different ingredients, and this is the culmination of my best efforts, while maintaining the most authenticity.
Many years ago, my cousin Rosanna, who’s lived in Bologna for over 40 years, showed me how to make this sauce, and over the years, I’ve made only subtle changes to her original recipe, since I consider hers to be authentic.
I’ve tried many different ground meats for this sauce–beef/pork/veal, turkey, pork-only, turkey with a touch of minced pancetta, etc. The best version, I believe, is made with 100% ground veal. I’ve found a ranch-raised variety in my supermarket, and it worked out beautifully–delicate and mild, with a nice bit of fat and flavor.
This is not a red sauce–it is more a “white” sauce in the Italian sense of the word–that is, only a touch of tomato paste is added–no whole peeled tomatoes to overshadow the delicate flavors of meat, butter, white wine and broth. There is also a touch of milk (not cream) added for its velvetiness and dairy texture. Lastly, there is a touch of nutmeg, for that certain Northern Italian something.
The sauce needs to simmer no more than about an hour-and-a-half, with broth added every so often, when the liquid cooks down. When it’s finished, it looks like a pale brown sauce with a good bit of butter on top.
Use it to top fresh egg tagliatelle, or very fine quality dried fettucine. Since this is not a “thick” sauce, there should be a generous amount of it on the pasta and plenty of grated parmigiano on each portion as well.
I promise you this is the best version of this sauce you will ever make!
makes enough to dress pasta for 6 persons (1 1/2 lbs pasta)
2 lbs ground veal
1/2 yellow onion
2 small shallots
2 ribs celery
4 tbls butter
1/8 tsp nutmeg
3 -4 small pieces dried porcini
1/2 c white wine
2 tbls tomato paste
4 c chicken broth
salt and pepper to taste
In a food processor, combine onions, shallots and celery.
Pulse to a fine dice, but do not liquify.
Place in saucepot with 3 tbls butter and simmer on low heat for approximately 7 minutes, or until vegetables have wilted but not browned. Add meat, sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and a generous grind of black pepper.
Add porcini. Continue sauteing on medium heat until meat has lost its pink color.
Add wine and reduce for 3 -4 minutes.
Add milk and tomato paste and continue simmering for another 5 minutes or so.
Begin adding broth, 1 cup at a time, and simmer on lowest heat, partially covered for about an hour, adding broth every 15 minutes or so.
Finished sauce should appear liquidy with a nice slick of fat on top.
When ready to dress pasta, add the final tablespoon of butter, top with cooked pasta and a generous amount of grated parmigiano.
Add some pasta cooking water and toss and mix over high heat for about a minute.
Serve with more grated cheese and plenty of black pepper at the table.