ragu bolognese

Ages ago, a publisher sent me this fantastic book in hopes that I’d do a review or a giveaway. I had every intention of trying a few recipes, snapping some photos, and then putting it up for grabs to you lovely readers. But you see, I kind of can’t let go of it. It’s pretty much become my pasta bible.

Why am I so attached to it? Well, first of all: it’s pretty. Instead of glossy shots of steaming noodles and pots of sauces, there are graphic color blocks in the shapes of different pastas.

Some of them are downright framable.

But the second and most important reason I love this book is that it tells you how to make nearly every type of pasta and every type of sauce known to man (or at least to Italians). You can follow an entire recipe (homemade noodles from scratch, along with its recommended paired sauce), or take it one piece at a time (I’ve been experimenting with sauces and *gulp* buying dry noodles at the store).

I’ll try my hand at homemade gnocchi and tagliatelle one of these days. But for now, I’ll continue making this ragù bolognese like a broken record. It’s that good.

It starts with three meats: pork, beef, and pancetta (I’ve been substituting unsmoked bacon and it works just fine).

Next: onion, diced tomatoes, milk, olive oil, butter, white wine, celery, carrots, garlic and chicken stock (not pictured).

A word of warning about this sauce: it’s not a quick, throw-together at the last minute type of meal. Make it when you’ve got some time to attend to it. The results will be well worth it. Plus, it makes a very large batch and you can freeze half for later.

Begin by dicing the celery, carrots, onion, garlic and pancetta (or bacon).

Saute with the butter and olive oil for 10-15 minutes until the vegetables become tender.

Add the meat in a few batches, taking the time to break up any chunks with your spatula. I use ground meat (unless there is an extremely short line at the butcher counter, in which case I will purchase minced) and it helps if you break up the pieces as small as possible.

Fry for 15-20 minutes, until some crispy browned bits appear.

Deglaze with the wine, then add the milk, chicken stock, tomatoes and salt and pepper. Simmer gently for 4 hours.

While cooking, the sauce is going to look something like this. Do not be afraid. It’s more of an oil-based sauce (I know, I know—when you think ragu you think thick and tomato-ey, but this is a traditional version), and it’s not the prettiest to look at, but boy does it make up for it in taste.

When the 4 hours is up, adjust the seasoning one last time. Cook your favorite noodles (the recipe calls for tagliatelle but I had fettuccine on hand. I’m probably breaking some sacred Italian rule of sauce pairing but hey, I’m a rebel) and saute with a little bit of the sauce and a tiny bit of pasta water.

This may be the perfect Sunday supper. A warm, crusty bread, a green salad, and a steaming bowl of bolognese with parmesan on top? Heaven.

Enjoy. And if you’re looking to expand your pasta repertoire, I can’t recommend this book enough. And it’s not because I got it for free—everything I have made from it has been genuinely fantastic. And that’s why I can’t bear part with it.


Below is the original recipe, and here are my substitutions:

  • ground meat, not minced
  • beef, not veal
  • unsmoked bacon in place of pancetta
  • no chicken livers (duh)
  • fettuccine instead of tagliatelle (I have also used pappardelle and rigatoni; both of which work well)
  • I find that it serves more like 10 than 8. I like to freeze half of the sauce and we get two dinners out of the other half (this is Lucy’s favorite pasta, by the way).


Tagliatelle al Ragù Bolognese from The Geometry of Pasta by Caz Hildebrand & Jacob Kenedy

This sauce is a million miles from the “Bol” that we Brits like to serve with pasta, which is about as close to the real McCoy as our chile con carne is to a true version. It is orange, not red; it is more oil-than water-based; it is delicate, creamy, aromatic and subtle. This is one of many recipes where the cooking technique is as important to the finished dish as the ingredients–buy best-quality pancetta and Parmesan, spend as much money as you can afford on the eggs and flour for your pasta (or the packaged tagliatelle), and the few pennies remaining on the other ingredients. There are words to describe how good this is, but they shouldn’t appear in print…

Serves 8

  • 1 3/4 pounds dried, or 2 1/4 pounds fresh, tagliatelle
  • 1/2 c grated Parmesan, to serve

Ragù Bolognese

  • 1 lb minced pork
  • 1 lb minced veal (or beef)
  • 3 1/2 oz chicken livers (optional)
  • 1 carrot
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 1 medium onion
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 7 tbsp butter
  • 4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 1/2 oz pancetta (not smoked), cut in strips
  • 1 1/3 c white wine
  • 2 1/4 c milk
  • 14 oz canned tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 c beef or chicken stock (optional; otherwise an additional 1 c milk)

It is worth having the butcher mince the meats coarsely (1/3 inch thick) for the improved texture. Peel and dice the carrot, dice the celery, chop the onion, and slice the garlic.

Take a very wide frying pan (12″) and melt the butter in the oil over a medium heat. Add the vegetables and pancetta along with a good pinch of salt, and saute for 10-15 minutes until softened. Increase the heat to high and add the meat in 4-5 additions, allowing time for any water to evaporate, stirring and breaking up any lumps with a spoon. After the last addition, wait until the pan starts to sputter slightly, then decrease the heat to medium and fry, stirring occasionally, until the meat has browned with a fair portion of crispy bits—about 15-20 minutes. Deglaze with the wine, then transfer to a saucepan along with the milk, tomatoes and stock as well as a good grinding of pepper and more salt to taste. Cook at a very low simmer, uncovered, for about 4 hours until the sauce is thick, more oil-than water-based (add a little stock or water if it dries too much or too quickly). When ready, the liquid will be as thick as heavy cream and, stirred up, the whole should be somewhat porridgy. Adjust the seasoning one last time.

The addition of bay and/or dried red pepper flakes along with the meat is heretical, if not displeasing.

Heat the ragù in a frying pan with a little pasta water. Drain the boiled pasta when marginally undercooked, then add to the sauce to finish cooking for about 20 seconds, with some butter. Serve with grated Parmesan on top.



  1. This is the best pasta sauce I have ever had.

  2. Spaghetti is the best!! Is there a recipe for Candela pasta? I bought some a few months ago, but I don’t know what to do w/ it! It’s the coolest pasta, like a 16″ penne!

  3. I can have this book in 2 days………… YUM

  4. Chris Lemon says:

    Trying my first batch of this since Shannon made it for me earlier this summer. So far it’s looking exactly as it should! 🙂

  5. Good answer back in return of this question with genuine arguments and telling all regarding that.


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