[Let’s wander around Italy with Marco on the hunt for the most typical dishes of our heritage. Which you can also replicate at home, if you fancy. That’s right, because we’re going to give you the recipe!]
Bologna is the city of towers. It has 22 of them, still standing proudly. They loom above the roofs of Bologna, the red of the bricks against the red of the tiles. They offered a means of defence (the enemy can be spotted sooner from up high), but also prestige for the city’s aristocracy.
Not far from the Basilica of San Petronio (Bologna’s cathedral with its characteristic unfinished façade), the two most famous towers still rise side by side, not fully vertical nowadays... The Asinelli Tower holds a record for this very reason: it is the tallest leaning medieval tower in the world (97 metres in defiance of gravity).
But above all else (!), Bologna is the city of lasagne. And ragout, which is spelt ragù in Italian! An aromatic, hearty “comfort food” from before the term even existed, it is traditionally prepared on a Saturday, left to simmer gently for hours and then to rest overnight, ready for Sunday lunch.
Personally, on Sundays I prefer going for a wander, hiking in nature, or going to the beach (in summer) or the mountains (in winter). Or vice versa.
But for a good ragù I could make an exception...
RAGÙ ALLA BOLOGNESE (OUR WAY)
[Prep time: a couple of hours. Perfect recipe for an afternoon at home]
Ingredients [serves 4]
- 500 g coarsely minced meat (either all beef or half beef and half veal)
- 250 g tomato passata
- 4 medium carrots
- 2 stalks of celery
- A white onion
- Fine salt (to taste)
- Black pepper (to taste)
- Half a glass of red wine
- Half a glass of milk
- 1 tablespoon of
- extra virgin olive oil
- Nutmeg (optional)
In a wide-bottomed pan (the sides shouldn’t be too low), without pre-heating, fry the roughly chopped onion, carrots and celery in oil. Don’t break them down too much: a good ragù preserves the texture of its aromas.
You can simmer them with half of the wine, turning up the heat to burn off the alcohol.
Now it’s time to add the meat – seasoning it well while browning – and the rest of the wine. Add salt and pepper.
Stir in the tomato passata a little at a time, mixing it well with the meat. Once the mixture has begun to simmer again, add the milk, lower the heat to a minimum and cover with a lid. Now you can relax, and maybe even go to a different room... ;)
A good ragù isn’t afraid of being cooked slowly, at length, just like in the good old days. From this point, it needs to cook for at least an hour. But if you have time, let it go for a couple of hours: it will condense, turn a nice amber colour (not exactly red) and spread its unmistakable aroma through the house.
When it’s cooked, finish with grated nutmeg and a knob of butter. Let your ragù rest, covered, overnight in the fridge if you can.
It will make the perfect accompaniment to a simple dish of pasta or egg tagliatelle (you can find excellent pasta in the shops, including dried options).
And voilà, your 100% Italian lunch is served.
Buon appetito! 💗