Bolognese Sauce with Breadcrumb Gremolata

I’ve often said this dish would be my last meal on earth if I had the choice.  It’s just so darn….goooood.  And satisfying….and yummy. It’s a dish I’ve been making for years and years now for friends and family and it’s always a crowd favorite. The depth of flavor is really what sets this dish apart from other meat sauces I’ve tried.  And those deep, complex flavors can an only be achieved over time as the tomatoes and the meat and the wine and the herbs magically do their thing.  No short cuts.  In fact every time I taste the sauce about 30 minutes into the cooking process I think to myself “That’s not very good.” And I kind of panic on the inside. Then when I taste it an hour later I’m   happily relieved.  Use the best quality meat and crushed tomatoes you can find.  Also, use a good wine that you would drink or could serve along with the meal.  

The gremolata really brings the dish up a level because it makes a beautiful topping and adds some serious texture and flavors to the dish.  But the real key, for me, is to highlight the meat sauce by serving with a little pasta but not a lot.  It’s about the sauce and if you use too much pasta it will get lost, which is why the recipe calls for only a half pound instead of a full pound. Try this for your next dinner party! Don’t say I didn’t warn you!  ADDICTIVE…

Bolognese Sauce

  1. In a large heavy soup pot over medium heat add in the butter and olive oil.  When melted add in the onion, carrot, and bay leaf and pinch of red pepper flakes.  Sauté until tender but not browned, about 4-5 minutes and then add in the garlic and cook for additional 30 seconds.
  2. Add the meat to the pan and season generously with salt and pepper.  Break the meat down with a wooden spoon until you have small, even pieces.  One key to a good Bolognese sauce is that the texture of the meat is small.  Stir as the meat starts to cook and let most of it turn a light brown but some will still be a little pink.  Don’t brown the meat or it will be tough. This is the point you want to add the milk.  The milk tenderizes the meat but you don’t want to bring it to a boil or it will curdle.  Turn the heat down to medium low and stir gently as it absorbs into the meat for about 5 minutes.  Not all the milk will absorb.
  3. Add in the red wine, tomato paste, crush tomatoes, and sugar.  Bring mixture back up to a boil and mix to incorporate all the ingredients.  Reduce to a simmer and cook uncovered for 50 minutes, stirring occasionally and skimming off any fat that forms at the top.  Taste for salt and pepper.   Typically I add more at this point along with a little more spice. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook for another 45 minutes or more.  This is where the magic happens.  Do not shorten this step or the meat sauce will not be as tender and flavorful.  Taste and adjust salt again if needed.  Add parmesan and heavy cream, if using.
  4. In a large pot combine the pasta and meat sauce and toss gently, removing the bay leaf.  Place on a serving platter or individual bowls and finish with breadcrumb Gremolata. 

Breadcrumb Gremolata

1.  In a medium sauté pan over medium low heat add in the olive oil and butter until the butter is melted.  Add in the panko bread crumbs, lemon zest and garlic and cook while stirring gently to ensure even cooking of all breadcrumbs until golden brown.  Remove from heat and add in the parmesan and parsley.


Bolognese Sauce

¾ lb ground beef (80/20)

1/3 lb ground pork (80/20)

1 Tablespoon unsalted butter

1 Tablespoon olive oil

2 medium carrots, peeled and finely diced

1 medium yellow onion, peeled and finely diced

1 bay leaf

1 clove garlic, diced

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

2 cups whole milk

¾ cup Red wine

2 Tablespoons tomato paste

1- 28oz can good quality crushed tomatoes (San Marzano)

2 teaspoons sugar

¼ cup heavy cream or ½ & ½ (optional)

1/3 cup grated parmesan

Salt & Pepper

½ lb fettuccine or favorite pasta, cooked according to package instructions, drained

Breadcrumb Gremolata

¾ cup Panko break crumbs

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Zest, 1 lemon

1 teaspoon finely minced garlic

¼ cup grated parmesan

2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

*Total cook time 2 hours.  Dish can be made a day ahead.

Serves 4-6

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