Recipe Corner

Ragu’ alla Bolognese

Preparation time: 15 minutes Cooking time: 2 hours 20 minutes

One of the world’s most popular recipes, and also one of the most abused of the Italian classics. As its name implies, it is not, strictly speaking a dish, but rather a sauce that originated in Bologna. It uses lesser cuts of meat, and derives from cucina povera. It would not be served on a daily basis but rather reserved for special occasions. The official recipe was recorded on 17th October 1982 in Bologna’s Chamber of Commerce. The recipe uses milk in the cooking, which some might find odd. What’s more, it requires a lengthy cooking time – so it’s one for a leisurely Sunday lunch.

Ingredients to serve 4 

150 g pancetta, chopped

50 g carrot, peeled, finely chopped

50 g celery, peeled, finely chopped

50 g onion, peeled, finely chopped

300 g beef mince

1/2 glass of dry white wine

5 tbsp tomato passata

1 glass of full fat milk 

salt and freshly ground black pepper

320 g fresh egg tagliatelle


Place the pancetta in a heavy based frying pan, and allow the fat from the pancetta to melt over a very gentle heat. When the fat has melted, add the carrot, celery and onion, and allow to soften. 

Next, add the beef mince and fry until it begins to colour (but not brown). Finally, add the wine and tomato passata and stir. Leave to simmer over a gentle heat for 2 hours. From time to time, as the sauce begins to dry, stir a little of the milk. Check the seasoning.

Bring a saucepan of salted water to the boil, add the pasta and cook according to the packet instructions. Drain, then divide between plates. Serve the sauce on top.

(originally published in ITALIA! magazine)