Everything about this recipe is just right. It is sinfully delicious with shockingly complex and deep flavors, delightfully inexpensive, and despite the cook-all-day simmer time, easy to make. Y’all, this dish is my gem. I almost considered keeping it to myself. Almost.
The recipe is loosely based on Marcella Hazan’s classic bolognese, without which I might have made several mistakes that would have given me a very, very different dish. I would have used red wine. I would have smothered it in garlic. I might have even dropped the celery. I am so glad I did none of those things. So, a few words of wisdom:
Even though you think that red sauce should only have red wine in it, you will use the white wine.
I don’t care if you only drink almond milk ( okay, so maybe I only drink almond milk) , but you will buy a small carton of the real stuff and add it anyway.
Don’t even think about adding garlic. You’re thinking about it anyway, but stop it! No garlic in this one! I am a garlic-holic and I tell you, people, do not add garlic!
If you hate nutmeg, you will still put it in this sauce. But really, if you hate nutmeg I don’t know if we can be friends anyway, so maybe you should just hit the back button on your browser and go from whence you came. Nutmeg: it’s what’s for dinner.
Follow the directions. This is a process. You will build flavors slowly, and the payoff is a complexity I never knew could come from ground beef and some canned tomatoes.
Which reminds me — one last note … get the “good” canned tomatoes: San Marzano. Totally worth the extra $0.80.
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup diced onion
- ½ cup diced celery
- ½ cup diced carrot
- ½ cup chopped mushrooms
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1⅓ lbs ground beef
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- ⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1½ cups milk
- 2½ cups white wine
- 1 can ( 28 ounces ) crushed tomatoes
- 2 cups water
- Melt the butter and olive oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add the onion and a hearty pinch of salt, and cook until translucent ( around 5 minutes ).
- Add the celery, carrot, and mushrooms and cook for 3 more minutes.
- Stir the ground beef into the vegetables and cook until the meat crumbles and is cooked through. This should take around 6 minutes.
- Add 1 teaspoon salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and the nutmeg to the meat mixture.
- Pour the milk into the pan, and stir to combine. Bring to a simmer, stirring often, until the milk has reduced down to a saucy coating for the meat ( there will still be a small amount of liquid in the bottom of the pan ). This will take anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes.
- Crank the heat up to medium high, and stir in the white wine. Keep stirring until the wine reduces down like the milk did. There should just be a thickened sauce at the bottom of the pan/meat mixture now.
- Stir in the crushed tomatoes and the water, reduce the heat to low, making sure the sauce stays at a simmer. Simmer the sauce for at least 4 hours, stirring occasionally. Feel free to add more water if the sauce starts to cake to the pan. I usually have to add around a half cup of water for each hour of simmering.
- Serve over wide-cut ribbons of fresh homemade pasta, and top with a sprinkle of pecorino romano cheese.