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Our Favorite Tuscan Bolognese Sauce

Years ago, in a farmhouse nestled amidst the spectacular rolling hills of vineyards and farmland in Tuscany, I learned this Bolognese sauce recipe from a wonderful woman and her husband who ran a small agriturismo in Chianti.

Making the best of the ingredients found in the yard and the pasture outside the kitchen door, Virna combined the meat from their animals with the wildly enthusiastic and aromatic rosemary hedges that surrounded the yard.

It's a flexible recipe- add more tomatoes if you prefer, or use different meats, you'll never be disappointed no matter what you substitute. Virna was a stickler, but we've riffed on this and found each version delightful.

In the original recipe, in fact, there was a single chopped tomato and absolutely no garlic. I find my usual preparation does, in fact, benefit from the addition of more tomatoes, and I can't resist the addition of garlic. The main flavors of this sauce, however, come primarily from the familiar trio of carrots, celery and onions. That, and of course the meat and the rosemary. You can never add too much rosemary. It's truly heaven. Follow your instincts, and you'll turn this into a variety of delicious meals.

Use this sauce tossed over your favorite pasta, thinned with a bit of the pasta water, or stuff it into bell peppers, top with Parmesan and bake them up. It's also one of the main ingredients in our most favorite lasagna recipe which you can find here.

I always make a huge batch of this as it freezes beautifully. If you prefer to make a smaller batch just cut this recipe in half, and you'll have plenty. I hope you love this one as much as we do!

Tuscan Bolognese Sauce

Ingredients

  • 3 large onions, diced
  • 3 large carrots, peeled and diced
  • 3 large celery stalks, peeled and diced
  • 6 large branches of rosemary, leaves chopped fine
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced fine (or omit it and stay truer to the original).
  • 3 lbs. of lean ground meat. We use a combination of pork, veal and beef, but lamb adds an earthiness, and turkey or chicken could make a lighter version.
  • 13 or 26 oz. package of Pomi chopped tomatoes (or your favorite brand). Crushed tomatoes or finely chopped fresh tomatoes would work too. Add the tomatoes to taste, from just a touch to more of a red sauce.
  • 1 bunch flat parsley, leaves minced
  • 3 T. Olive oil
  • 1 c. dry white wine (or use red if you're adding a lot of tomatoes)
  • 1 t. red pepper flakes (or to taste)
  • Kosher salt and pepper to taste.

Preparation

  • Preheat the olive oil in a large pan over a medium-high heat. When it shimmers, add the onions, then two minutes later add the celery and carrots. When the vegetables begin to soften, add the garlic and stir until fragrant. 
  • Add the meat, one variety at a time, stirring with a wooden spoon to break the meat up and mix it into the vegetables, browning as you go. Add the second variety of meat following the same process, then the third.
  • Add the chopped rosemary and stir to combine. Add the red pepper flakes. Add the wine and stir until it's evaporated.
  • Add the tomatoes, stir until well combined.
  • Lower the heat to simmer slowly, for at least 2 hours, but the longer and slower it cooks, the more delicious it gets. Check it periodically and stir to prevent any sticking on the bottom. If needed, you can add a bit of beef broth or water (this will vary depending on how many tomatoes you've added). If you prefer, you can transfer the sauce to a slow cooker at this point, set to low for 4-6 hours.
  • When the sauce has cooked for at least 2 hours add the chopped parsley, and salt and pepper to taste. You can continue cooking the sauce, or take it off the heat and let it cool to room temperature at this point.
  • Spoon off any excess fat and discard.
  • The sauce is ready to use- either on pasta, in lasagna, or stuffed into bell peppers and baked. You can also freeze it at this point. Defrost in the fridge one day before using, then warm it gently in a saucepan.

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