Sunday night’s bolognese was wildly easier and wildly more delicious than I anticipated. Ragù alla bolognese was on my 25 Recipes list in part because I keep hearing about pots of bolognese simmering away at Shana’s house – and part because while I can make a solid marinara, I really should branch out a bit in my tomato-based sauces.
Here’s the first thing I learned: there are two basic ragùs: bolognese and napoletana. Both start with a soffrito and derive most of their flavors from the meat, but as is the way with regional cooking, the recipes diverge wildly from there, resulting in sauces that are defined by their differences rather than their essential natures. An authentic bolognese has only a minimal amount of tomatoes, while napoletana is rich with velvety tomatoes, a byproduct of the longer growing season in Naples. The meat is more finely chopped in a bolognese, while the soffrito of a napoletana contains more onions and herbs.
Both sauces are characterized by a long, slow preparation, making them perfect for a lazy Sunday – or for a snowy night when plans have been canceled and you can wait another hour for dinner while a pot simmers away, filling the house with amazing aromas. The longer the simmer, the better, but I started prep at 5:30, and by 7:30, we were fiending for a taste.
And oh my gosh, was it worth the wait. Shane literally groaned upon taking his first bite – always a good sign. The sauce tucked itself into the grooves of the fusilli – Meijer’s upscale store-brand, made using the traditional bronze die process that results in a substantially better texture. We halved the recipe and would’ve eaten the entire thing, had good sense and an awareness of the caloric punch of beef AND pork AND veal AND heavy cream not prevailed. Besides, if it was this amazing for dinner, just imagine how good the leftovers will be for lunch?