Pasta Bolognese that's (almost) better than your Nonna's

Story highlights

  • For a truly memorable bolognese, it helps to layer the flavors
  • A 'meatloaf mix' of ground beef, veal, and pork gives the perfect ratio of flavors
  • Can't savor it all right now? This sauce keeps for up to a month
A good Bolognese is about as homey as it gets: Comforting and warm, thick and smooth, and full of rich, complex flavor. The meat should be first and foremost, but there should be sweet, salty, and acidic flavors in the background.
To get this complexity, we built our Bolognese in layers, starting with just onion, carrot, and celery, sautéed in butter. Then we added meatloaf mix (a combination of ground beef, veal, and pork). For dairy, we used milk, which complemented the meat flavor without adding too much richness.
Once the milk was reduced, we added white wine to the pot for a more robust sauce, followed by chopped whole canned tomatoes. A long, slow simmer produced a luxuriously rich sauce with layers of flavor and tender meat.
You can find this recipe and over 1,100 other family classics, as well as tips, tricks, and equipment reviews, in "The America's Test Kitchen New Family Cookbook." Our team spent more than a year rebuilding our classic landmark family cookbook from the ground up, continuing its quest to create the absolute best versions of recipes everyone counts on.
So whether it's a version of your grandfather's lasagna or your mom's enchiladas you're trying to recreate, this cookbook will point you in the right direction.
Pasta Bolognese Recipe
Ingredients:
If you can't find meatloaf mix, use 6 ounces (85 percent lean) ground beef and 6 ounces ground pork.
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
2 tablespoons minced carrot
2 tablespoons minced celery
12 ounces meatloaf mix
Salt and pepper
1 cup whole milk
1 cup dry white wine
1 (28 ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, drained with juice reserved, tomatoes chopped fine
1 pound fettuccine or linguine
Grated Parmesan cheese
Instructions:
1. Melt 3 tablespoons butter in Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion, carrot, and celery and cook until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in meatloaf mix and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook, breaking up meat with wooden spoon, until no longer pink, about 3 minutes.
2. Stir in milk, bring to simmer, and cook until milk evaporates and only rendered fat remains, 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in wine, bring to simmer, and cook until wine evaporates, 10 to 15 minutes.
3. Stir in tomatoes and reserved tomato juice and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to low so that sauce continues to simmer just barely, with occasional bubble or two at surface, until liquid has evaporated, about 3 hours. Season with salt to taste. (Sauce can be refrigerated for up to 2 days or frozen for up to 1 month.)
4. Meanwhile, bring 4 quarts water to boil in large pot. Add pasta and 1 tablespoon salt and cook, stirring often, until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water, then drain pasta and return it to pot. Add sauce and remaining 2 tablespoons butter and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste and add reserved cooking water as needed to adjust consistency. Serve with Parmesan cheese.