Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Slow braised Bolognese

Serves 4 to 6

This is the real stuff, cooked slowly, properly and lovingly. This ragu has numerous uses, and if chilled then reheated properly just seems to get better over a few days. A mixture of beef, pork and chicken livers is braised slowly in lots of red wine and a herby tomato sauce to intensify the meaty flavours until there is very little liquid left. A little goes a long way because of its richness. Of course the meat can be interchangeable (if anything, try hard not to omit the chicken livers though, they really do make the difference) - I did a terrific version while in Hong Kong without the pork items which I turned into a pretty damn good lasagne which won me a bottle of port, but cost me a bottle of champagne....

Olive oil, for frying
1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
2 celery stalks, trimmed and chopped
500ml passata
100g pancetta, chopped
250g beef mince
250g pork mince
250g chicken livers
2 tblsp tomato purée
2 star anise
1 tblsp each chopped sage and rosemary
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 bottle of red wine, such as Chianti or Valpolicella

Preheat the oven to 140c/Gas 1. Heat 2 tblsp of olive oil in a sauté pan and sweat the onion and garlic for 8-10 minutes until really soft but not coloured. Stir in the carrot and celery and continue to sweat for another 5 minutes over a medium heat. Tip the contents of the sauté pan into a food processor or liquidiser and pulse a few times. Pour in the passata and blend again until smooth.

Add the pancetta to the sauté pan and fry for a few minutes to render the fat down and until lightly golden but not crisp. Tip into a medium flameproof casserole and return the pan to the hob.

Increase the heat to high, then brown the beef mince for about 5 minutes until it starts to take on some colour, adding a little oil as necessary. Transfer to the casserole, then repeat with the pork mince.

De-vein the chicken livers with a small sharp knife, then rinse them under a cold, running tap. Pat dry with kitchen paper. Heat 1 tblsp of olive oil in the pan over a medium to high heat and brown the livers quickly on all sides for about 30 seconds. Remove from the pan, chop as finely as you can, then add to the casserole.

Place the casserole over the heat and stir the tomato purée into the ingredients, followed by the passata mix. Add the star anise, sage and rosemary, season with salt and black pepper and pour in the wine. Bring the sauce up to a simmer, then cover with a lid and cook in the oven for 2 hours.

Remove the lid, give it a good stir, then continue to cook uncovered for 1 hour, giving it a stir every 15 minutes or so. You should be left with a rich, thick sauce, and very little liquid remaining. Serve with freshly cooked pasta, fold into a lasagne or baked in the oven again with some gnocchi.


  1. I am sure this tastes fantastic, but it looks too labor-intensive and also a bit expensive if you use chicken livers. What I would really like to see is some recipes that "dress up" normal ingredients. Supermarket shopping is so expensive these days! Can you help? I don't need flashy food, just a couple of interesting things to do with normal stock cupboard ingredients.

    Love the blog, especially the story about Sri Lanka. More stories about your travels and strange food please!

  2. Hi Anonymous, thanks for your lovely comments. I really am trying to piece together some ideas that can be done at home, dishes I do myself too, and recipes that are rewarding without being too labour intensive. Couple that with a few interseting exotic journeys and I think we might be onto something here...!!