A couple months ago, I was fortunate enough to wander into a tiny osteria (just 6 tables) in the lovely village of Cernobbio on Lake Como in Italy. We were the last to sit for lunch and by the time we were finished eating, the only ones left in the place. The owner/chef/waiter sat and chatted with us for a good half hour, during which the subject of a correct Bolognese came up. He had a pretty string opinion about what Bolognese is and is not; a meat sauce, not a tomato sauce. He shook his finger at me and said, “Only add enough, er, tomato, er”, (insert many gestures of trying to squash something between your hands here) “paste,” says I, “tomato paste!”. “Yes, yes, tomato paste. Only enough to make the color pleasing; all the meat makes it gray. Not pretty to look at.”
So, based on the tip and a few others, here is my most delicious take on a Bolognese ragu.
In a large stockpot, Soften 1 cup chopped onions, 1 large carrot, chopped finely, 3 cloves of garlic and 1/2 cup of celery and 2 bay leaves in 2 T olive oil and 2 T butter.
Meanwhile, cook until just crisp 3/4 lb. of thick cut bacon (use pancetta if you like, I had bacon on hand) that has been cut into 1/2 inch pieces. Drain the fat and add to the veggies.
Brown 1 lb. stew beef and add to the large pot. Brown 1 lb spicy Italian sausage and 1 lb. ground venison and add to the pot.
Add 3 T tomato paste, 1 C beef broth, 1/2 C red wine, stir well and bring to a bare simmer. Add 1 C milk, I used low fat, but any sort will do. Add salt and pepper to taste and just a couple light sprinkles of ground cloves. Trust me on this, it adds some great depth of flavor. Simmer very gently until the meat is tender, about 90 minutes, maybe two hours. A crockpot will work for this if you prefer, just cook on low for 4 to 6 hours.
Serve over fresh pappardelle with some freshly shaved parmesan.