It is true, my friends that what you have always considered a wonderful dish—Spaghetti Bolognese—does not even exist in the land where it supposedly was conceived. Don't get me wrong. Italy has spaghetti, and Italy has bolognese sauce. Italy does not, however, have spaghetti bolognese. Let me burst your culinary bubble one more time: Tomatoes are NOT the base for a bolognese sauce. They play a very minor roll in all of this.
So, you may ask, what the heck is a bolognese sauce, and with what kind of pasta do Italians eat it? Thank you for asking, and let me answer the questions in reverse order.
Italians feel that pairing the correct pasta with a sauce can either enhance or detract from the meal. Tagliatelle, a ribbon-like pasta that is able to hold the heavy sauce better, is what originated with the dish. Tagliatelle is similar to fettuccine, but a little more narrow. If you can't find tagliatelle, you can always substitute fettuccine, linguine, pappardelle, stringozzi or even some of the tube-shaped pastas.
Bolognese sauce takes a good three hours to prepare correctly. Yes, you can cook it more quickly, but it will not be as flavorful. You'll note by the ingredients that it is a meat-based sauce that includes a few vegetables. The traditional recipes call for no herbs—especially garlic—except for a bay leaf which adds a little depth to the sauce.
(This was what we used for 8 people last evening.)
1 carrot finely diced.
1 celery stalk finely diced.
.5 onion finely diced.
a little less than 1 small can of tomato paste
2.25 pounds of ground beef and pancetta (Use 80% for the correct taste and consistency.)
.25 pound of pancetta, finely diced and mixed with the ground beef. (You can substitute bacon.)
red or white wine (About a cup or so)
vegetable or beef stock (About 2-3 cups)
First, wash and dry all of the vegetables. Peel the carrots and remove the strings from the celery. Finely dice the carrots, onions and celery. The pieces should not be more than .25 inches square.
Coat the bottom of a large casserole with olive oil and heat over a low fire. Add the vegetables and cook them until the onions are almost translucent.
Break up the meat mixture and add to the casserole. Continue stirring with a wooden spoon until the meat cooks through.
Once the meat is fully cooked, add the wine (You can substitute vegetable or beef stock for wine, if you prefer.). After the wine evaporates, add salt and pepper to taste. It is important not to add it until the meat has cooked and the alcohol has evaporated because adding it too soon will make the dish salty.
Mix in the tomato paste, add the bay leaf, and about 1 cup of stock. Cover and simmer over a low heat for three hours. After 20-30 minutes, remove the bay leaf. Stir the sauce occasionally, and add more stock if the sauce is too thick.
When the sauce is done, divide it into two parts. Add the pasta to one of the pans of sauce and toss. Divide onto the plates, and top with sauce from the other pan. Serve with parmigiano and a nice chianti.