the best - bolognese

For my third installment of some of my favorite recipes I'm sharing with you a White Bolognese sauce. I first discovered this recipe in Amanda Hesser's memoir/cookbook, Cooking For Mr.Latte. In it she describes being served this dish by a friend while visiting Italy. A White Bolognese is in essence the same as a traditional meat sauce except it has no tomatoes. As Ms. Hesser writes, "without the acidity of a classic Bolognese, it seemed more aromatic, as if tomatoes masked the flavors of the meat and the other vegetables."

I recently discovered that this recipe has also been published in the comprehensive The Essential New York Times Cook Book by Amanda Hesser. In her introduction to the recipe, she tells us that Mr. Latte (now her husband) asks her to make this dish for him every year on his birthday. It is amazing and possibly the best meat sauce you will ever try. Trust me, you won't miss the tomatoes!

Rigatoni with White Bolognese

adapted from Amanda Hesser - The Essential New York Times Cook Book


Extra Virgin oil 1/2 sweet onion, peeled and finely chopped 2 medium carrots, peeled and finely chopped 1 stalk celery, finely chopped. Sea salt Freshly ground black pepper 1 lb mild Italian pork sausage meat, removed from casings. 1 lb ground beef (not lean) 1 1/2 cups dry Italian white wine 1 cube beef bouillon dissolved in 2 cups simmering water 1 1/2 ounces dried porcini mushrooms rehydrated in 3 cups lukewarm water 1/3 cup heavy cream 1 lb rigatoni 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

fresh thyme or Italian parsley for garnish 


1. Add enough oil to a large, deep saute pan to coat the base and place over medium-high heat. When the oil shimmers, add the onion, carrots and celery and saute until glassy and just tender, about 5 minutes. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Add the sausage and beef to the pan, breaking it into walnut-size pieces, and brown well. 2. Pour in the wine and keep at a rapid simmer until the pan is almost dry. Then pour in 1 1/2 cups beef bouillon and lower the heat to medium. Simmer gently, uncovered, until the bouillon is nearly gone, stirring now and then. Meanwhile, chop the rehydrated porcini into small pieces, reserving the liquid. 3. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add mushroom liquid to the sauce to cover the meat halfway (about 1 cup) along with the porcini and continue simmering until the sauce is loose but not soupy, about 10 minutes. Taste and adjust salt and pepper, it should be highly seasoned. When the consistency is right, fold the cream in. Remove from the heat and cover. 4. When the pasta water is at a full boil, add the rigatoni and cook until still firm, but not hard, in the center. When the pasta is almost done, scoop out 1 cup of pasta water and reserve. Drain the pasta and then return it to the pot. Pour the pasta sauce on top and fold in with a wooden spoon. The pasta should not be dry. Add a little pasta water or mushroom liquid to loosen it. (It will continue to soak up sauce on the way to the table.) Serve in one large bowl or indiviual bowls, passing the cheese and thyme or parsley at the table.

I'd love to hear what you think of this dish. Has anyone ever made a White Bolognese sauce before? I think once you try this you will never go back to the tomato version!