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The Best Ragù Bolognese for Kids (But You’ll Want to Eat It All Yourself)

December 7th, 2015  |  by  |  Published in Actual Advice  |  4 Comments

ragu bolognese

A big ol’ pot of ragù bolognese.

Last night, at the tail end of Sasha’s 7th-birthday party, Jean whipped up dinner for the last couple of the kid’s friends still hanging out. She made, of course, spaghetti bolognese, using the sauce that I whip up in large batches each month, then freeze in small Ziploc snack packets. The kids, well, they loved it—and even asked for more. Their moms, who were hanging out too, seemed impressed, so I figured I’d share the recipe.

This is, first of all, a super-basic bolognese sauce. I don’t think there are any weird twists in there, although whether your Emilia-Romagnese nonna would agree with my choices is, well, I don’t care. Here ya go:

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. ground meat (I prefer a pork-and-beef mix, but you could go all beef, add in some veal, or switch up to lamb)
  • 5 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 2 medium yellow onions, diced
  • 4–5 celery stalks, diced
  • 2–3 large carrots, diced
  • 6 large cloves garlic
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4–6 thick twigs fresh thyme
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes (I prefer Sclafani brand because its ingredients are just “tomatoes, salt”)
  • 3/4 C. white wine
  • 3/4 C. whole milk

1. In a dutch oven over high heat, brown the meat in two batches, seasoning it with 1 tsp. salt and breaking it up once it’s developed a crust, about 5 minutes. Remove the meat from the pot with a slotted spoon, so that the fat drains back in, and reserve.

2. Reduce the heat to medium-high and add the butter. When it’s done frothing, add the onions, celery, and carrots (this mix is called a mirepoix), plus 1 tsp. salt. Cook, stirring regularly, until the veggies have cooked down a bit and the onions are on the verge of caramelizing, about 8–10 minutes.

3. Stir in the garlic and cook 1 minute. Add the bay leaves and thyme and cook 1 minute more. Put the meat back in and stir to combine.

4. Stir in the crushed tomatoes and 1 tsp. salt. At first, this won’t seem like nearly enough tomatoes to make this a sauce, but after a minute or two, everything will be nice and crimson.

5. Stir in the white wine and milk. When the sauce starts bubbling furiously, cover with a heavy lid and turn heat to as low as possible (you may have to change burners for this). Cook at least 3 hours, preferably 4 or 5. However long you cook it, do it until the fats have started to separate out from the rest of the sauce—this is a good way to know when it’s generally ready.

6. When it’s finally done (or you can wait no longer), pluck out the thyme stems; the cooking should have removed the leaves from them already. I usually then let the pot cool and spoon it out into Ziploc baggies; about 8 of the “snack” sizes, each of which holds enough sauce for 2 kiddie portions, or 1 adult portion.

Variations: In summer, I like to add a diced zucchini to the mirepoix and skip the milk.

The last, but possibly most important, thing to know about this recipe is: Make sure you get to eat some yourself! It’s pretty damn tasty, but your kids can easily consume the whole batch without your ever getting a spoonful. And then you’ll have to make another pot. Which maybe isn’t so terrible, come to think of it.

Anyway, let me know it goes for you…


Responses

  1. Ed Lilly says:

    December 7th, 2015at 3:20 pm(#)

    Looks great – thanks for posting!

    One question – you did not specify putting the meat back into the sauce. Do you recommend adding the meat at the tomato or the wine/milk step?

  2. Matt says:

    December 7th, 2015at 3:21 pm(#)

    Whoops! Just put that back in. The recipe editor has been fired.

  3. Drew Wallner via Facebook says:

    December 7th, 2015at 3:22 pm(#)

    I’m totally making this when we get back from holiday travel, I even just got a Dutch oven!

  4. Dee says:

    December 7th, 2015at 7:58 pm(#)

    As one of the impressed moms there last night, and also because my kid ate 3 bowls of that bolognese, thanks for sharing Matt! Now she doesn’t have to wait till the next time she comes over to have it although I think being at your place adds to the excitement.

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  • Dee: As one of the impressed moms there last night, and also because my kid ate 3 bowls of that bolognese, thanks for...
  • Drew Wallner via Facebook: I’m totally making this when we get back from holiday travel, I even just got a...
  • Matt: Whoops! Just put that back in. The recipe editor has been fired.
  • Ed Lilly: Looks great – thanks for posting! One question – you did not specify putting the meat back into...
  • Maks: I’m against baby yoga for sure, but want to say something regarding that author is a little wild about...

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