The ‘Gold Standard’ Meat Sauce

The ‘Gold Standard’ Meat Sauce


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Marcella Hazan’s classic Bolognese sauce.

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Jim Wilson/The New York Times

When Marcella Hazan, the cookbook author who revolutionized the way Americans cook Italian food, died in September 2013, The Times asked readers to submit their favorites of her recipes. Many wrote in to sing the praises of her famous (and contentious) red sauce made with just four ingredients — tomatoes, a stick of butter, an onion and salt — and others gushed about her roast chicken with lemons, pork braised in milk and minestrone.

Still more answered with one word: Bolognese. One reader called Ms. Hazan’s meat sauce from “The Classic Italian Cookbook,” her 1973 debut, “the gold standard.”

It’s that ideal cold-weather recipe that we reintroduce to you here. If you’re not familiar with Italian recipes for Bolognese, be warned: It is not the traditional Italian-American meat sauce, punctuated by strong notes of tomato, garlic and oregano. Hers is influenced by the flavors of northern Italy (particularly the city of Bologna), so there is no garlic or olive oil, but there is milk and butter and a hint of nutmeg. It might seem like an odd combination, but the milk and butter mellow the intensity of the acidic tomatoes. The wine, nutmeg and vegetables create a complex flavor profile that transforms this sauce into something truly spectacular.

Keep in mind that the finished sauce is very rich, so when serving, dole it out with a light hand. As one NYT Cooking reader wrote: “The noodles should show under a coating of sauce, like varnish rather than paint.”

Ms. Hazan called for using ground beef, or a mixture of beef and pork, but some readers have had happy results using a mixture of veal, beef and mild Italian sausage. The sauce also freezes well, so consider making a double batch.

Finally, you’ll need at least four hours to make it (some readers prefer to let it simmer for at least five), so set aside a weekend afternoon — preferably a chilly one — when you have plenty of time to allow it to simmer to perfection. It is not to be rushed.



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