An authentic bolognese is a product of Bologna, the Bread Basket of Italy. A city especially blessed with cooks whose resumes date back to the Middle Ages when students from all parts of Europe came to study at the renowned University. The University of Bologna is considered to be the oldest university in the Western world. Nine centuries of Alma Mater Studiorum (from 1088) through the bustling Middle Ages into Renaissance into the contemporary era, its history is intertwined with that of the great names of science and literature and food. I say food because the first students to study at the university had servants and servants were cooks and as a result Bologna developed a culture of sophisticated foodies where Ragù alla Bolognese is revered.
This is not a spaghetti, marinara or meatball sauce. No basil, no garlic. no oregano. Just salt and pepper. This is a sauce for a purist. A sauce for one who appreciates meat (beef, pork, veal, wild boar). Unlike other Italian sauces, the tomato is a supporting player and should be used judiciously.
Although there are as many variations of Bolognese sauce as there are Italian cooks, an authentic bolognese begins with sauté of the soffritto, a slow sweat of finely diced onions, carrots and celery in olive oil and butter. Then red wine and tomato are added. Some include a touch of milk (never cream) to mellow the flavor and soften the texture of what were once "gamey" meats. Some use a sprinkling of nutmeg but these additions vary among different families and recipes. In 1982, the Academia Italiana della Cucina officially registered the recipe for Ragù alla Bolognese with the Bologna Chamber of Commerce. According to the academy a classic Bolognese Ragù must include onions, celery, carrots, pancetta, ground beef, tomatoes, milk and white wine.
All ingredients must be fresh and of the best quality to produce a worthy bolognese. My secret ingredient is Segreti di Sicily Ready Organic Cherry Tomato Sauce from Azienda Frantoi Cutrera. The bright flavor, intense color and aroma of organic tomatoes from the island of Sicily make a naturally sweet salsa di pomodoro that adapts to a variety of recipes including Ragù alla Bolognese. The segreti (secret) of this salsa di pomodoro is the love and passion the producer conveys, through the flavors and aromas, the emotions of the island of Sicily and its history.
The most traditional way to taste a great Bolognese sauce is with tagliatelle or in lasagne alla Bolognese.