1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons butter plus 1 tablespoon for tossing the pasta
1/2 cup chopped onion
2/3 cup chopped celery
2/3 cup chopped carrot
3/4 pound ground beef chuck (or you can use 1 part pork to 2 parts beef)
Black pepper, ground fresh from the mill
1 cup whole milk
1 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 cups canned imported Italian plum tomatoes, cut up, with their juice
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds pasta, preferably tagliattele
Freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese at the table
Put the oil, butter and chopped onion in the pot and turn the heat on to medium. Cook and stir the onion until it has become translucent, then add the chopped celery and carrot. Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring vegetables to coat them well.
Add ground beef, a large pinch of salt and a few grindings of pepper. Crumble the meat with a fork, stir well and cook until the beef has lost its raw, red color.
Add milk and let it simmer gently, stirring frequently, until it has bubbled away completely. (this will take awhile) Add a tiny grating — about 1/8 teaspoon — of nutmeg, and stir.
Add the wine, let it simmer until it has evaporated, then add the tomatoes and stir thoroughly to coat all ingredients well. When the tomatoes begin to bubble, turn the heat down so that the sauce cooks at the laziest of simmers, with just an intermittent bubble breaking through to the surface. Cook, uncovered, for 3 hours or more, stirring from time to time. While the sauce is cooking, you are likely to find that it begins to dry out and the fat separates from the meat. To keep it from sticking, add 1/2 cup of water whenever necessary. At the end, however, no water at all must be left and the fat must separate from the sauce. Taste and correct for salt.
Toss with cooked drained pasta, adding the tablespoon of butter, and serve with freshly grated Parmesan on the side.
-The meat should not be from too lean a cut; the more marbled it is, the sweeter the ragu will be. The most desirable cut of beef is the neck portion of the chuck.
-Add salt immediately when sauteeing the meat to extract its juices for the subsequent benefit of the sauce.
-Cook the meat in milk before adding wine and tomatoes to protect from the acidic bite of the latter.
-Do not use demiglace or other concentrates that tip the balance of flavors toward harshness
-Use a pot that retains heat. Earthenware is preferred in Bologna and by most cooks in Emilia Romagna, but enameled cast-iron pans or a pot whose heavy bottom is composed of layers of steel alloys are fine.
-Cook, uncovered, at the merest simmer for a long, long time; no less than three hours is necessary, more is better