(about 8 servings)
This bolognese spent the better part of the day on the stove top, simmering gently over very low heat. That gave the sauce a chance to really develop its flavours and was well worth the time.
Years ago I sampled a sauce similar to this which contained chicken liver. Sadly it's becoming more and more difficult to find them. Rather than having to special order the liver and put off making this until next weekend, I decided to add some liverwurst instead. That did the trick. The finished bolognese had a very subtle taste of liver which I loved. If you gag at the thought of liver, then by all means leave it out. :p
1/4 lb prosciutto, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
3 medium carrots, chopped
1 large yellow onion, chopped
8 oz mushrooms, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 lb lean ground beef
1/4 lb coarse liverwurst (optional)
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
2 tbsp double concentrated tomato paste
2 cups red wine
1 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried marjoram
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
salt, if needed
freshly cooked pasta
Place a dutch oven on top of the stove over a low flame. Add the prosciutto and garlic and stir time to time.
When the prosciutto begins to render some of its fat (if it's really lean, add a small amount of olive oil) add the celery, carrots, onion and mushrooms. Cover the pot and braise the vegetables and prosciutto over the lowest flame possible for about 2-3 hrs.
Remove the lid and increase the heat slightly. The mixture will have accumulated some liquid. Stirring from time to time, cook the mixture.. some of that liquid will evaporate, which is fine.
Meanwhile add the olive oil to a skillet and set over medium-high heat. Brown the ground beef, breaking the meat up with a wooden spoon as you go along.
I tried to lightly brown the vegetable mixture at this point, but it was beginning to stick to my dutch oven and rather than adding more oil or taking the chance it might burn, I added the liverwurst, diced tomatoes, tomato paste and red wine and stirred everything until it was well combined.
Drain the meat, if necessary and add that to the dutch oven along with the cocoa powder, rosemary, thyme, oregano, marjoram and black pepper. I didn't add any salt at this time preferring to wait a few hours to see how salty the mixture was after the prosciutto had a chance to fully mingle.
Cover the pot once again and adjust the heat to it's lowest setting. Simmer very gently for another 3-4 hours.
Check and add salt at this point if it's needed. Serve with cooked pasta. Sprinkle with a bit of Parmigiano Reggiano, if desired. This sauce freezes really well.