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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

12-Hour Bolognese

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Several days ago I followed an unsuspecting link from Twitter that took me to Cheryl Tan's blog, A Tiger in the Kitchen. Here, she had posted a recipe from Heston Blumenthal, an amazingly complex chef and owner of the three Michelin-star Fat Duck in Britain.

The recipe is for bolognese, one of the most basic Italian pasta dishes, a simple meat ragu served over pasta. How tough could that be? Well, the recipe originates from Blumenthal and his slow-cooking, molecular gastronomy background, with a little editing from Marcella Hazan, the queen of Italian cooking and author of The Classic Italian Cookbook. As Tan notes, "Between peeling, chopping, simmering and cooking down liquids, you're looking at a good two-plus hours even before the bolognese gets into the oven." It's a perfect project for a day off!

So what's the result of waiting half a day for a meat sauce? Utterly unbelievable. The meat was so tender and sweet that it was hard to imagine that this was at one point ground beef. And the entire concoction just melts in your mouth. Don't leave anything out of this recipe - you'll be surprised at what star anise does to the sauteing onions. While tagliatelle is traditional, I used campanelle for a little fun in the bowl. ENJOY!

The 12-Hour Bolognese
(Recipe is a combination of Heston Blumenthal's and Marcella Hazan's bolognese sauce recipes.)

2 TB olive oil
6 TB unsalted butter
1 cup onion, peeled and finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
2 star anise (Could substitute 1 tsp. ground anise seed)
2/3 cup celery, peeled and finely chopped
1 1/3 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
1.5 lbs ground beef chuck (the fatter the meat, the sweeter the ragu will be)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups whole milk
Nutmeg (whole, for grating)
2 cups dry white wine
3 cups (or 750g) canned Italian plum tomatoes, with juice
Cooked tagliatelle

1. Preheat the oven to 225F. Season ground beef with salt and fresh ground pepper and set aside.

2. Put the oil and butter in a large casserole with a lid and add the onion, garlic and star anise. Cook over a low heat for 30 minutes.

3. Add the chopped carrots to the pot and continue cooking for another 20 minutes, then add the celery and cook for a further couple of minutes. Add the ground beef to the pot, sprinkle some salt on it right away and then mix it up well with the vegetables.

4. Next, add the milk to the meat mixture. Grate over some nutmeg and cook gently for at least 30 minutes, until the milk has just about disappeared. It really won't look appetizing at this point.

5. Add the white wine and tomatoes, stir through, then place in the oven, with the lid of the casserole slightly ajar. Cook for at least six hours. It probably won't be necessary, but if the meat starts to look dry, add some water.

6. After cooking, some fat will have split and risen to the surface, but don't worry about that. When the sauce has finished cooking, it should be rich and moist.

*** Note, at this point, your ragu may still be fairly liquid -- if so, gently simmer it over medium heat on the stove until most of the liquid has evaporated. I simmered mine for about 3 hours until perfect!

7. Taste it and, if needed, generously season with freshly ground black pepper. Serve with pasta and freshly grated parmigiano.


Here's what it looked like while we enjoyed it, and after devouring it!

Eric Lovelin Photography


  1. Yum Yum! Maybe I will try that out next week!

  2. That looks super good! I may have to make that soon!

  3. I love the red running through the pics - the pot, the sweatshirt. The empty bowls are great. n

  4. I lovelovelove your pictures! So glad you enjoyed it. You're making me want to make it again soon. After the holidays, for sure! Cheers ...