In 1982, the Italian Academy of Cuisine (Accademia Italiana della Cucina), an organization dedicated to preserving the culinary heritage of Italy, recorded and deposited a recipe for "classic Bolognese ragù" with the Bologna Chamber of Commerce (La Camera di Commercio di Bologna). A version of the academy's recipe for American kitchens was also published. The academy's recipe confines the ingredients to beef cut from the plate section (cartella di manzo), fresh unsmoked pancetta (pancetta di maiale distesa), onions, carrot, celery, passata (or tomato purée), meat broth, dry white wine, milk, salt and pepper.So the official recipe for Ragù Bolognese was only registered in 1982! Yet, Italians seem very particular when it comes to this dish. And they will go to war if you dare challenge them over it. Still, many varieties exist (even in Italy), including minced lamb, veal, chicken livers, Worcester sauce and even Thai fish sauce. Officially, the dish then becomes a 'Ragù d'auttore' - a recipe by the author, which makes it all ok, we guess. As long as you do not serve it with spaghetti...
Semantics aside, we all love a rich, hearty Bolognese sauce. And if you want to serve it with spaghetti, who cares? Kids love it anyway. But we also know that the secret to a good Bolognese sauce is simmering it for 2 hours or even more. That's all good on a Sunday when you have time, but who has time for that during the week? No panic: here is our quick and easy Ragù Bolognese from the pressure cooker to the rescue!
1 kg minced beef
500 gr minced pork
250 gr onions, diced
125 gr carrots, diced
125 gr celery, diced
2 cans peeled tomatoes (400gr)
140 gr tomato puree (concentrate)
250 gr diced pancetta or smoked bacon
500 ml chicken stock
125 ml white wine
2 bay leaves
2 tsp dried Italian herbs
2 cloves of fresh garlic
Pressure cooker min 6 liter capacity
Start by frying the pancetta in your pressure cooker with two tablespoons of oil. If you cannot get pancetta, use smoked lean bacon.
When the pancetta is nice and crisp, add the vegetables and a teaspoon of salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to medium. Sweat until the onions become translucent.
Add the finely diced garlic and dried herbs. You can use fresh if you have it. Fry for 1 minute until the garlic becomes fragrant.
Make a small space in the middle of the pan and add the tomato puree. Fry it for 1 minute to reduce the tartness.
Deglaze the pan with 125 ml white wine. Cook over high heat until the alcohol has completely evaporated. Use a wooden spoon or spatula to scrape all the delicious bits from the bottom of the pan. Add to the cooker.
Stir and slowly bring the sauce to a gentle boil. Do not add the lid to the cooker and go to high temperature because this might burn your sauce to the bottom of the pan. Don't add any thickening agents as this will also increase the risk of burning.
Once the sauce is gently cooking, add the lid and let the pressure build up to full capacity (12-15Psi - check your pressure cooker manual). Cook for 30 minutes and let the cooker depressurize. Remove the bay leaves and cook until you get the desired thickness. Depending on your cooker you might even need to add some additional stock or water. Remove any fat floating on top. Move the sauce to smaller containers and let cool to room temperature. This Ragù Bolognese will keep in your fridge for several days and half a year in your freezer.
Let there be no doubt: the traditional way of making this sauce,
simmering slowly for many hours over low heat,
is much preferred to this quick and easy approach.
But for a stew that is ready in less than an hour, it's pretty amazing.
For how to cook and sauce pasta properly, read here.