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Edward Behr's Ragù Bolognese (aka Bolognese Sauce) : The Good Soup

Edward Behr’s Ragù Bolognese (aka Bolognese Sauce)

Edward Behr is a slow food legend. His The Art of Eating magazine is the written equivalent of this sauce. Meaty, layered with time and patience, producing a tender, provocative meal.

You might think describing Bolognese Sauce as ‘provocative’ is a bit of a stretch, but Edward Behr’s ragù is defiant in the face of Bolognese versions I’ve grown up with. This sauce contains the scantest amount of tomato (it almost makes me wonder what it’s doing there). And the meat is cooked so slowly that it feels like it might incubate back to life. But this patient cooking and reducing down, plus the addition of milk, make for an extraordinarily tender, invisibly creamy and savoury sauce.

To really sing out, this ragù begs for a very generous grating of parmigiano-reggiano. I’m not sure why, something about the cheese’s sharpness and its crystalline milkines, perhaps, accentuate the sweet origins of the sauce.

I feel a little sorry at having bought my lean (no choice), frozen (no choice), finely ground (no choice) meat. At least it was organic, which I emplore you to consider choosing as well. If you need more reason than supreme tastiness and supporting great farmers, read this article. Regardless, Edward’s description of the meat for this ragù captures the Behr spirit perfectly, so I can’t help but repeat it for you here:

The historic region of Emilia, of which Bologna is the largest city, loves its fats, and the cuts of meat called for below are fatty. Rather than being ground fine like hamburger, the meats should be coarsely ground. You can request this from a butcher or do it yourself by hand with a single sharp knife- or, rhythmically, with a matched pair of chef’s knives, one in each hand, and a heavy cutting board.” Edward Behr, from The Art of Eating Cookbook, p. 72.

Even with less-then-Behrian meat choices, the sauce is unbelievably good.

Ragu Bolognese (aka Bologna Style Rich Meat Sauce aka Bolognese Sauce)

Adapted slightly from Edward Behr’s The Art of Eating Cookbook, p. 72. Also, I’ve doubled the recipe to make the most of the long cooking time. Feel free to halve it all back down to less gargantuan proportions. This will feed 4 normal appetites 3 times.
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 2 medium sized carrots, finely chopped
  • 2 stalks of celery, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp (30ml) lard, ex virgin olive oil, or a combination of butter and olive oil
  • 700g organic beef or veal chuck or skirt, ground
  • 700g organic pork shoulder or veal chuck, ground
  • 500g dry cured ham or bacon, sliced and finely chopped
  • 350ml white or red wine
  • 250ml diced fresh or canned tomatoes
  • 500ml rich stock (I used this recipe)
  • 500ml organic full cream milk
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • pasta for 4, 6 or 12
  • plenty of parmigiano reggiano to grate over at last minute

In a large, heavy saucepan, sweat the onions, carrots and celery until they are soft but not brown. If you need instructions, see my description of a mirepoix).

Add all the meats and cook over low heat, stirring so that it all cooks evenly, until it is all no longer red, but not brown, more like a pale pink/grey.

Add the wine and cook, again over low heat, until it has almost evaporated.

Add the tomatoes, stock and milk and cook again at a low heat, or just low enough that you see only a few simmering bubbles. The idea is that the meat sauce slowly concentrates without toughening. (And it is a great idea.)

After 3 or 4 hours the sauce will be very thick with hardly any thin sauce remaining. Unfortunately, I don’t have a final image of this thickened sauce, as it was too dark to take the photo! I’ll hopefully remedy this on my next ragù venture.

Serve with pasta cooked in plenty of boiling salty water and serve with oodles of grated parmigiano.


  1. the hungry writer
    June 1, 2012 at 9:04 pm | | Reply

    Back to read you after a long while… busy with a book in Wales… but what a page to come back to! Gorgeous. And the link to the magazine and book too. Thank you! Hope all is good with you and family, Angela. xx

  2. Kitchen Belleicious
    June 5, 2012 at 2:20 am | | Reply

    I love bolognese! Too good to not know how to make and this recipe sounds amazing. Hope you are doing well!

  3. Lilly Sue
    September 8, 2012 at 10:58 pm | | Reply

    I love Bolognese Sauce! This looks delicious!

  4. Harry
    February 16, 2014 at 10:11 pm | | Reply

    This is the best Bolognese Sauce. Thias is a original recipe from Italy!
    If you want you can freeze it or you take the sauce for Lasagne.
    This tastes very good.

    Many greetings from Germany / Bavaria


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