This meal is the ultimate comfort food. When my husband and I were in Italy we had the most amazing bolognese in Tuscany and I was determined to replicate it at home. After reading many recipes, I compiled my own from bits and pieces. I still haven’t recreated the magic of a perfect bowl in the Tuscan countryside, but I think this recipe is quite delicious. One way to make this recipe even more authentic is to use ground veal instead of beef. I have mentioned before that I don’t use veal in my recipes and avoid eating it for ethical reasons, however I’m quite sure that was part of the deliciousness in Italy. You should either make this first thing in the morning on a weekend to enjoy that night, or overnight as it takes about 11 hours total (including preparation). If you don’t own a slow cooker you could always simply use your pasta pot set on low, just keep a close eye on it. Your leftovers will freeze very well in containers or Ziploc freezer bags. I hope you find this meal worth the time as I do!
1 large onion or 2 small, cut into 1-inch dice
2 large carrots, cut into 1/2-inch dice
3 ribs celery, cut into 1-inch dice
4 cloves garlic
Tbsp chili flakes
I cup cubed pancetta
Extra-virgin olive oil, for the pan
3 pounds ground beef
2 cups tomato paste
3 cups hearty red wine (remember, your dish will be as good as the wine you use so open a fresh bottle for this)
Water (if necessary)
3-4 bay leaves
1 bunch thyme, tied in a bundle
Olive oil, for finishing
Large pasta pot
Puree onion, carrots, celery, and garlic into a coarse paste in your food processor.
Coat your pot with oil and heat at medium. Add the pureed veggies and season generously with salt. Bring the pan to a medium-high heat and cook until all the water has evaporated and your veggies become nice and brown, stirring frequently, about 15 to 20 minutes.
Add the ground beef and pancetta and season again generously with salt. Caramelize your beef! This is where all the delicious flavours develop in your sauce. Cook another 15 to 20 minutes.
Add the tomato paste and cook until browned, about 4 to 5 minutes then add the red wine. Cook until the wine has reduced by half, another 4 to 5 minutes. Finally, add water to the pan until the water is about 1 inch above the meat. Toss in your bay leaves and the bundle of thyme and stir to combine everything. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Taste your sauce and and season with salt, if needed (you probably will).
Add your sauce to your slow cooker and leave to simmer on low overnight 8-10 hours.
30 minutes before eating, heat some heavily salted water. When the water is at a rolling boil add your pasta and cook for 1 minute less than it calls for on the package. Drain the pasta and heat your sauce in the pot. Stir or toss the pasta to coat with the sauce. Add some of the reserved sauce, if needed, to make it about an even ratio between pasta and sauce. Heat the sauce and pasta together then turn off the heat.
Sprinkle with Parmesan, drizzle with olive oil and enjoy!