So you think you know how to make a real ‘ Ragu ‘ Bolognaise? You’ve been making this classic meat sauce for spaghetti forever, right? But are you getting it authentic enough to please an Italian? Well, there are some expert cooks of real Italian food in the Good Food Ireland membership, so hopefully they will approve of our Friday Food Fact tips and hints to get your Ragu Bolognaise tasting just right! We’ve added some of their special touches too.
- Firstly, always start with the best meat. Italians often use a mix of beef and pork mince, to add richness to their ‘ragu’. Always get your mince from a local butcher – for guaranteed Irish from local farms. It’s better value, homemade mince which often contains trimmings from the most tender cuts of meat, and a balanced proportion of fat which you need for this dish.
- Finely chopped onions and celery and crushed garlic are usually added. Carrots can also make an appearance – finely diced.
- Don’t be surprised to find chicken livers in an Italian Bologenese sauce. Chicken livers add smooth silky richness to the end result. Available also from your local butcher – probably frozen so you will need to defrost before use. Prepare by removing any tubes or greeny bits, then wash thoroughly under cold water, pat dry and finely chop.
- Always use good quality Italian chopped tomatoes – they have full ripe flavour and a thicker consistency than cheaper tins of chopped tomatoes. An authentic ragu is all about intensity of taste.
- Slow cooking is key – this is not a dish to rush. A heavy bottomed saucepan with a lid is ideal. Heat should be low enough to give just the gentlest of simmering.
- Surprise surprise – even though we call this ‘Spaghetti’ Bolognaise, Italians actually prefer to serve their Bolognaise sauce with Tagilatelle. The broader strands of pasta help the sauce stick on more easily. Makes sense to us. We’ll be trying it next time!
- For serving, the idea is to toss the sauce through the pasta before dishing into warmed serving bowls.
- In Italy, there’s usually a bowl of freshly grated Parmesan on the table for sprinkling on before eating – but you can use a good strong finely grated Irish cheddar style cheese if you prefer
TIPS FROM OUR COOKS
- At Toscana Restauant in Dublin City Centre, PJ and Dee Betuci have a very different recipe for Ragu. PJ uses Irish venison and the freshest herbs just picked from the couple’s own vegetable garden at home. PJ serves his Ragu with Rigatoni, a tubular pasta with fine ribbed texture, which has largeish holes for gathering the sauce inside. The rougher texture of the pasta also helps the sauce adhere. A delicious and very different approach to this classic, which probably comes from the game dishes of Tuscany rather than the typical Bolognaise version.
- Tuscany Bistro in Ballina/Killaloe and Castletroy Co. Limerick, offers a classic slow cooked beefy Ragu Bolognaise, made with red wine and served with Spaghetti in the Irish style! This is a serious plateful – you won’t be going hungry!
- Dunne and Crescenzi chefs make their Ragu sauce with best Irish Hereford beef from a local butcher. It’s used for a wholesome and filling Lasagna Umbra ‘Dal Forno’ – which means ‘from our oven’, and for pouring over Gnocchi. Mmmm…