We’ve already established that traditional bolognese is made from beef but, according to the official recipe, diaphragm, belly or shoulder are the permitted cuts. No mince here. The recipe also calls for bacon (which, in Italy, is generally pancetta – bacon’s unsmoked relative). Oh, and if you dice the pancetta with anything other than a crescent-shaped knife – forget about it.
“We use a mixture of meats,” Guy says. “Mainly ground beef, but also some pork and chicken for richness. My mother is from Verona, in the north of Italy, where they make some magnificent pork ragus. But traditionally bolognese is made from beef.”
Onion, carrot and celery all make the cut here but, notably, garlic does not. To start, fry off the pancetta in some olive oil then add the finely chopped vegetables. The original recipe states that vegetables must be finely diced (however Guy says he prefers to put in whole carrot and celery for flavouring and take it out at the end). These should be sauteed, slowly, on low heat, until the onions become translucent and start to caramelise. This is known as the soffrito.
“This is the part people often rush,” Guy says. “The onions need to get that lovely brown colour to them. Making sure they are caramelised property is what adds sweetness and sugar to offset the tartness of the tomatoes.”
And caramelisation is not just for the onions. Guy says the beef should develop a bit of a crust, too, which will add depth to the flavour. He also advises to hold off on seasoning at this point as it can interfere with the browning of the meat.
“Sometimes it might give off a bit of liquid,” he says. “Wait for that to dry and absorb and for the meat to get nice and brown. You don’t want grey meat – you want it to be almost crispy before adding the wet ingredients.”
Once your meat is done, add some white wine and allow it to completely evaporate before adding your tomato, stock (broth) and seasoning, which is simply salt and pepper. Bring it to a simmer and then leave it to bubble away, gently, for a minimum of 1.5 to two hours.
“The longer you cook it, the more flavour you extract,” he says. “You don’t want it to be ready in half an hour.”
What the basil?
It might look nice as a garnish but basil, and herbs in general, are not included in ’82 classification; however, that hasn’t deterred Guy from adding them to his.
“I wouldn’t put basil in there. It’s not the right flavour profile,” he says. ”Parsley is the main one for me, but we put a little bit of sage and chilli in there as well.”
Milk is perhaps the most contentious ingredient in the bolognese-making process, with proponents of the dairy addition swearing that it helps to balance acidity and reduce richness.
“This is traditional,” Guy says. “But I don’t do it. I have tried it a couple of times but, for me, it doesn’t really do a great deal for the sauce.”