Another one of the mighty Italian sauces.  The sauce is by no means a tomato sauce with fried ground meat

added.  To do it right takes a great deal of patience.  A true sauce bolognaise is a ‘meat’ sauce, not a ‘tomato’ sauce.  The end product is a rust color, and the flavors are extraordinarily deep and complex.

Of course, traditional Italian sauces are, like the regions of Italy, diverse.  Cuisine changes depending on what part of Italy you happen to find yourself in.  Southern Italian sauces will be more influenced by the dry, warm Mediterranean climate and ancient spice routes.  Northern Italian sauces will have the influence of lush meadows, cooler nights, a history of agrarian culture, and of course the closer to the mountains you go, the more the seasons will impact the food.  Tuscany, for example, has a rich heritage of agriculture and cattle and therefore its cuisine is, typically, heavier on things like red meat, cream, and butter.  In the southern regions, it’s red wine, olive oil and fresh seafood .

I love the cuisine of southern Italy.  The spices alone give it hints of Greek cuisine, a touch of North Africa, and some of the very unique spices coming from the Middle East.


Active cook time:  8 hours
Prep time: 30 min
Makes 10 portions


2 lb ground beef chuck
2 lb ground pork
2 lb ground veal
2 yellow onion, medium dice
1 rib celery, medium dice
1 carrot, small dice
5 cloves garlic, minced
3 sprigs rosemary, fine chop
1/2 bunch thyme, fine chop
2 bunch Italian basil
3 tbsp dry oregano
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground cumin
1 can tomato puree
1 can diced tomato
1/2 cup tomato paste
3 cups whole milk
1 750ml bottle dry red wine (chianti is best)
kosher salt
crack black pepper
red pepper flakes
extra virgin olive oil


In a heavy bottom stock pot, heat a little of the olive oil and begin browning the meat.  Let the liquid come out of the meat and evaporate.  When the liquid is gone, add the onions, celery and carrot, season with salt, and continue to brown, breaking up any clumps with a wooden spoon.   Add garlic, rosemary and thyme and cook until very fragrant.  Add tomato paste and cook until all meat is evenly coated and you can smell the tomato paste cooking (do not burn).  Deglaze with red wine and scrape the bottom of the pot with the spoon to loosen any caramelized bits.  Add oregano, cinnamon, nutmeg, a small amount of red pepper flakes and a little more salt and pepper.  Continue to reduce until au sec (almost dry).  Add the tomato puree and diced tomatoes.  Bring to a simmer, add the milk.  Reseason.  Bring back to a simmer, reduce to heat to low.  Over the pot, by hand, tear the basil into large pieces and add.  Continue to cook, uncovered from 6-7 hours.  The heat should be so the sauce bubbles every few seconds.  Stir occasionally.  It should be thick, rich, deeply seasoned and able to stick to pasta.  Remove the cinnamon stick and serve.

Tradition being what it is, spaghetti is the appropriate starch for this dish.  I do also like rigatoni bolognaise (the sauce gets inside the pasta and is held there).

My suggestion is serve with fresh grated parmesan, red wine and maybe another dash of pepper flakes.

This sauce is also the foundation for my meat lasagna, another low calorie dish.  It will follow shortly.


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