When I’m reading about a place or watching a movie set in a certain location, I often find myself craving the local food and the meals depicted in the story. The movie Chef had me thinking about cuban sandwiches for days, I craved ribs after watching House of Cards, and Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast made me want to drink way too much wine in a Parisian brasserie.
With this in mind, I thought it would be fun to share recipes to accompany the Hungry Traveler Interviews I post each month. When asked for a recipe to pair with her interview, Missy Hanley suggested Ragu alla Bolognese, or classic Italian meat sauce.
There are many traditional variations of bolognese, but the city of Bologna has actually registered a recipe which it considers to be the ‘official bolognese.’ It’s worth noting that many agree there is no one way to make the classic sauce, but in order for it to hold the name bolognese, it should stay true to the traditions of the Bologna area. I started with the official recipe and updated it, adding some pork and increasing the aromatics and herbs, and served the finished bolognese ladled over pappardelle pasta with a heavy dusting of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Don’t forget to read The Hungry Traveler Interview with Missy Hanley.
The sauce is easy to make but is a bit time consuming. The prep work is quick, basically just chopping some vegetables, but the cooking process is not something to rush. Taking the time to slowly soften the vegetables and get a nice brown sear on the meat will produce a more robust, flavorful sauce. Once you get to the simmering stage, it’s hands-off so you’re free to work on something else but you will still want to keep an eye on your sauce and give it the occasional stir. Bolognese is best for weekend cooking or a rainy day when you can relax by the stove all afternoon.
We often think of bolognese as something that’s paired with spaghetti, but it’s traditionally served with a thicker, sturdier noodle that can hold up to the meaty sauce. I recommend serving bolognese with tagliatelle, pappardelle, or rigatoni.
When it’s time to serve, you have two options. You can ladle the bolognese over a plate of cooked pasta and then finish with a generous handful of freshly grated parmesan. You can also toss the cooked noodles in a skillet with some butter, ladle in the sauce, and toss it all together to coat the pasta. Of course, you’ll want a generous sprinkle of cheese here too.