Much like American chili, Bolognese sauce has as many variations as there are cooks preparing their own personal version. To protect the integrity of the dish, the city of Bologna adopted an official recipe in 1982. The crisp and gentle saltiness of pancetta combines with the sweetness of carrots and the succulence of deeply browned beef to add richness to this tomato-based sauce. The key is to brown the meat thoroughly to bring out every bit of its flavor.
Pour a thin film of oil into the bottom of a deep skillet. Olive oil adds flavor, but you can use canola or vegetable oil if you prefer. Heat the oil over medium-high heat for 45 seconds or so until it is hot through.
Fry the chopped pancetta in the hot oil until it is crisp, stirring constantly to ensure that it does not stick or scorch. Three or four slices for every pound of meat is a good amount of pancetta to use.
Add the onions and garlic. The exact amount is a matter of personal taste, but one small onion and one or two cloves of garlic for every pound of minced beef is a good starting place. Saute the onion and garlic until the onion softens and turns translucent, which should take about 3 to 5 minutes. Turn down the heat if the garlic starts to brown.
Add the minced beef and break it into smaller pieces with a wooden spatula or other flat, heat-proof utensil.
Season the beef and vegetables with salt, pepper and Italian seasoning, which usually contains oregano, thyme and basil. Stir well to thoroughly mix the meat, vegetables and seasonings.
Turn the heat up closer to high. Add the celery and carrot. One stalk of celery and one carrot for every pound of beef is a good rule of thumb, but you can add more or less according to taste. Cook and stir the mixture until the beef has turned a deep, golden brown. This can take 10 minutes or more, depending on how much beef is in the skillet.
Things You'll Need
Onion, peeled and chopped
Carrots, finely chopped
Celery, finely chopped
Garlic, peeled and smashed
Omit the olive oil if your minced beef contains more than 15 percent fat because it and the pancetta together will release enough drippings to keep everything from sticking to the skillet.
Deglaze the skillet with a generous splash of dry red wine before proceeding with the sauce for a richer, tangier flavor.
Do not undercook minced beef: Undercooking is a health risk and does not bring out the full flavor of the meat.