Ragù alla bolognese is a versatile Italian classic, and here it's cooked in the pressure cooker to get a delicious, tender and tasty result in a fraction of the usual time needed...
Probably one of the most well-known and loved Italian dishes, the ragù alla bolognese is possibly one of the first dishes many of us make once we leave home, in the form of spaghetti bolognese - which is actually a dish which originated outside of Italy! The Italians tend to serve their ragù (Italian for 'meat-based sauce') in the form of tagliatelli alla bolognese (with flat pasta), or in lasagne alla bolognese, as this kind of meat sauce does not stick well to spaghetti.
Back in the day, I imagine most of us when trying to cook our first masterpieces in the kitchen went through a phase where we probably threw onions, mince and a tin of tomatoes into a pan with a shake of mixed herbs, and came out with a tasty pasta sauce, which then evolved over the years. Once outside of Italy, the ragù seems to change quite drastically depending on which country it has 'emigrated' to. Believe it or not, adding bacon/pancetta and herbs is not so authentic, however it's a taste which so many of us are accustomed to, so I've put them in as options. Here is my version of the traditional recipe, which is based on all the traditional ingredients (plus a couple of optional ingredients to satisfy modern tastebuds) for a very authentic flavour, including milk (which may come as a slight surprise to a few people, and certainly isn't something I included in my early days of cooking, but is very traditional) which has an amazingly tenderizing effect on the meat, so please do include it if you haven't previously - the difference is really noticeable!
Servings and calories
Makes approximately 10 to 12 portions (depending on your portion size).
If you're counting calories and want to make a 'skinny' version, use beef and pork mince with a 5% fat content, reduced fat bacon medallions cut up into strips, and a total of 1 x 15ml tbsp oil. If split into 12 portions this would give you portions that were approximately 218 calories each - for more information see here for my original skinny version (conventional cooking method) with a breakdown of calories.
- 500g minced beef
- 500g minced pork
- 250g diced pancetta or smoked bacon lardons (small, short strips - cut up streaky bacon if you like)
- Olive oil
- 2 large onions
- 3-4 large carrots
- 2 celery sticks
- 2 bay leaves (optional)
- 4 cloves garlic, crushed or finely chopped (optional)
- 300ml red wine
- 1 beef stock cube / bouillon concentrate to make up 450ml (but don't add 450ml water)
- 200ml water
- 250 ml semi-skimmed milk
- 4 tbsp tomato puree (double concentrate)
- 1 tbsp dried oregano (optional)
- 500ml passata (sieved tomatoes)
- 1 tsp cornflour (USA cornstarch) (optional, see method)
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Firstly, the onions, carrots, and celery need chopping into a relatively fine dice. I prefer to do this the quick way, chopping into large chunks, and quickly pulsing in a food processor (Thermomix - I usually chop veggies for 2 seconds on Speed 5 and repeat if necessary until they're the texture you prefer).
|Browning the mince for maximum flavour|
2. Select 'Saute' (or heat your pressure cooker on the hob) and allow it to heat right up, then add a splash of oil, and trying to avoid breaking up your mince, brown both sides of it well (photo to right), by leaving it to sizzle, then flipping it over once as if it's an enormous burger, then set it aside (it will still be raw in the middle). Do this in two or more batches if you find it easier.
3. Add the pancetta / bacon to the pan, and cook until just starting to brown a little, then add the onions and continue to cook for a couple of minutes, whilst scraping any tasty brown bits up from the bottom of the pan with your spoon, until the onions are just starting to soften.
4. Add the carrots, celery, garlic and bay leaves to the pan, and cook for a few more minutes, then add the browned minced meat back to the pan and break it up whilst continuing to saute everything together for a further 5 minutes.
5. Add the wine, and cook out for 8 minutes, then add everything else except the cornflour, salt and pepper, lock the lid on and seal the vent and set to cook on high pressure for 20 minutes.
6. Once the cooking time is up, allow natural pressure release for 15 minutes, then release the remaining steam (there is a bit, so be careful) and carefully remove the lid once the pressure is all gone.
7. Select 'Saute' and simmer the ragù until reduced to your liking, stirring occasionally (for me this is about ten minutes), then if desired add a tsp cornflour mixed into a thin paste with some cold water, to stop any watery tomato juices leaching out when you serve up. Season to your taste with salt and pepper.
At this point, your ragu is now ready, and you can serve it as a Bolognese sauce with pasta (e.g. tagliatelle) topped with parmesan, or go lo-carb with ‘courgetti’ if you've made the skinny version; or use it to layer up a lasagne; or cool, portion it up, and chill or freeze (it will keep in the fridge for a good 2 or 3 days, and last in the freezer for at least 3 months - in this house, many more!). Enjoy, and please leave me a comment below if you liked this recipe!