Marcella Hazan’s Ragu Bolognese

Inspired by the delicious Gnocchi alla Sorrentina I had in Fuertaventura, I had another go at a big batch of ragu bolognese. I came across Marcella Hazan’s recipe on the The New York Times website, but ended up following the one over at Sassy Radish as it already was roughly the quantity I usually make and had a bit more guidance on the cooking times.

What worked and what didn’t:
I knew that Marcella’s recipe from “The Essentials Of Classic Italian Cooking” actually is the basis for Heston Blumenthal’s adaptations (here are links to his “quick” version and his “sure, I will spend the entire weekend in the kitchen” version) but never had tried it.

I opted for the 2:1 beef/pork combination that was described in the recipe and I used same beef mince and thyme/fennel sausage meat I always use. The sauce was tasty, really meaty, and didn’t dry out even though it was on the stove about 6 hours in total. I guess that was mainly because the meat was cooked instead of fried and the ragu was covered with quite some fat. As it was well separated it was very easy to skim the fat off with a ladle.

On its own it already a very nice ragu that is a great deal easier to make than Heston’s recipes. The grating of nutmeg was a very nice touch, but we missed the herbs, intense tomato flavour and the overall punch from Heston’s adaptation. We therefore added a 140gr / 5oz tin of tomato purée in the final hour of simmering to enhance the flavors.

Recipe accuracy:
The recipe are accurate and you’ll get about 2 litres / quarts of ragu if you follow the quantities of Sassy Radish’ recipe. Therefore, the ragu was used that week both in a Gnocchi alla Sorrentina as well as a straightforward Spaghetti Bolognese (with some added peas).

gnocchi alla sorrentina

Suggested tweaks:
Mixing some of the easy additions from Heston will definitely take this ragu to a next level. You can start by adding 2 finely sliced onions that were slowly caramelised with a star anise to the vegetables or by adding a muslin bag (or use a mesh tea egg like I do) with some bay leaves, fresh thyme sprigs, a star anise and some bruised coriander seeds when simmering after adding the tomatoes to the softened vegetables. You can also add a kick to the ragu by adding some red wine vinegar and a dash of Worcestershire sauce or Asian fish sauce towards the end of the cooking.

Verdict: 8/10; Will be made again

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