Fettuccine Bolognese is a heavenly dish that begs for the sauce to be cooked properly. Allowing the meat, onion, celery, carrots, and tomatoes, to simmer slowly and constantly creates a velvety sauce that’s pleasantly rich; worthy of a Sunday night dinner.
While living in Italy, my husband and I were lucky enough to be somewhat adopted by an old Italian couple that lived next door. That unofficial adoption included regular invitations to lunches and dinners with espressos in between. During the years we lived there, Bolognese sauce, ragù alla Bolognese, as it’s known in Italy, was one of my favorite dishes that mamma, as we called this 80-something years old lady, cooked. Every time, the sauce would be simmering over the low heat while we were waiting on pasta to finish cooking. There was something special about this whole process. Of course, she served Bolognese sauce with homemade pasta but I will leave that part for some other place and time.
Dairy-Free Bolognese Sauce
When I came across Marcella Hazan’s recipe for Bolognese sauce that called for the same ingredients mamma used, I knew I had to give it a try. Hazan’s sauce brought back warm memories of our days in Italy. It did not disappoint in flavor either. I am not sure if mamma was aware of Marcella’s recipe or was the recipe similarity the result of two women of the same generation living, eating, and cooking in Northern Italy?
My recipe is a good combination of both but it’s completely dairy-free due. I do, however, prefer the original Italian way of adding milk to the sauce because it does make a difference. So, if you’re okay with dairy, go ahead and use it, I include instructions in the recipe.
RECIPE TIDBIT: I cook Bolognese sauce in bulk because it freezes really well. Plus, if I am going to cook something for three to four hours, I want to make sure I have plenty of it!
If you’d prefer a sauce that cooks faster and has more veggies in it, check out this Lighter Bolognese Sauce: Turkey and Zucchini that preps and cooks in an hour.
Fettuccine Bolognese: a Remedy for Picky Eaters
If you’re a mom of a stubborn toddler who refuses meat, like I am, this recipe is a wonderful solution to your problems! Toddlers seem to love Bolognese sauce. Bolognese is full of meat, meaning it’s a great source of the much needed protein for our young humans. If, on the other hand, your toddler refuses veggies, Bolognese is a remedy for you as well. It’s packed with tomatoes, carrots, onion, and celery, plus chicken broth.
- ¼ cup sunflower oil
- 1 cup sweet onion, finely chopped
- 1 cup celery, finely chopped
- 1½ cup carrot, finely chopped
- 1½ lbs ground beef chuck, 80% lean
- 1½ tsp coarse Kosher salt
- ½ tsp black pepper
- ¼ tsp nutmeg
- 2 cups dry wine, preferably white
- 2 cups unsalted chicken broth (for dairy-free sauce) or whole milk
- 3 cups canned tomatoes with juice, preferably Italian plum tomatoes
- 1 lb fettuccine
- Parmigiano-reggiano for serving (optional)
- Add oil and onion to a dutch oven* and turn the heat to medium-high. Saute onion until it becomes translucent, about 10 minutes. Then add celery and carrot and cook for a few minutes.
- Add the ground beef and crumble it with a wooden soon. Season with salt and pepper and cook until all beef loses the raw red color, you don't have to brown it.
- If using milk add it now and simmer the beef in it until the milk stops foaming, about 5-7 minutes. Stir often. If not using milk, skip this step.
- Season with nutmeg.
- Add wine and let it simmer until alcohol evaporates, about 3-5 minutes. If using chicken broth instead of milk, add chicken broth now and stir well then add diced tomatoes with their juice. Stir well and turn the heat down to low. Let the sauce simmer over low heat for at least three hours. Check occasionally for thickness. If it starts thickening and becomes sticky, add ½ - 1 cup of chicken stock or water and stir well. You can add additional liquid as many times you need as long as it is all evaporated before the sauce is done and you turn the heat off.
- Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook fettuccine according to the directions on the package. Drain pasta and reserve some of the pasta water for later use**.
- Add a few tablespoons of Bolognese sauce to the pasta and stir well.
- Serve the sauce over a plate of freshly cooked pasta and garnish with freshly grated cheese.
**Reserve some pasta water for pasta leftovers (if any). Mix some pasta water with leftover pasta before heating it up to "refresh" the pasta.
This Bolognese sauce freezes really well so I typically freeze half of it for later.
Half of this sauce recipe is enough for 1 lb of pasta.
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