Emilia Romagna Classic – Tagliatelle con Bolognese Ragù

The Real Pasta and Bolognese Sauce
Perfect for a Sunday afternoon, we’re continuing our exploration of the food and wine of Emilia Romagna. Another classic today: Fresh homemade tagliatelle and Bolognese ragù. In Italy, a moderate portion of this dish would form the primi course, followed by a secondi.  We’re going to turn this into a meal by pairing it with some roasted brussels sprouts and following with a nice salad you might find in Emilia Romagna.

Turn a primi course into a meal with veggies, finish with a nice salad

Turn a primi course into a meal with veggies, finish with a nice salad

As we travel (virtually) around Italy, we’re having fun discerning differences between regions less than two hundred miles apart. Compared to Piemonte:

  • The main pasta we tasted in Piemonte was Tajarin. The chief difference is that Piemontese chefs like to see how many egg yolks they can cram into a pasta dough.  Piemontese pasta is still just flour and eggs, but mostly egg yolks.  Tagliatelle is wider than tajarin, and has a nice flavor although not quite as rich.  Not a problem, as the Bolognese is richer than the Piemontese Sugo.
  • Piemonte: Sugo di Carne vs. Emilia Romagna: Bolognese ragù. In Piemonte, the sugo has very little liquid and no milk or cream. The Piemontese sauce has garlic, rosemary, no garlic in the Bolognese. Bolognese ragù is a bit more of a sauce and it has a richer flavor.
  • Verdict? Yes to both, but make sure you serve the correct pasta with the correct sauce!

Fresh Homemade Pasta
I love making fresh pasta, but I’m still too slow to do it on a weeknight.  You can make a bunch on a weekend afternoon and freeze the leftovers for quick, fresh, weekday evening meals!  I’m also learning a bit every time I make it, like how long to let the pasta rest (and dry just a bit) between when I roll it out and when I cut to the right width.  Experience is the only teacher.  You better get going! (click on any photo to start slide show)

Bolognese Sauce
The sauce is very easy, but allow plenty of simmering time to incorporate the milk and for the flavors to meld.  Two hours is barely enough.  Make a double batch for sure!  Even though we are empty-nesters, I doubled the recipe.  We had friends over for dinner on day one and have enough leftover to freeze for two more meals. (click on any photo to start slide show)

Sangiovese di Romagna DOC
Emilia Romagna wines beyond Lambrusco can be difficult to find.  Overshadowed by next door neighbor, Tuscany, you might have to search a bit to find Sangiovese di Romagna, but it will be worth your time.  First we tried Tre Monti‘s Campo di Mezzo Sangiovese Superiore ($15), which had been aged only in stainless steel. It was intensely fruit driven, nice but very direct.  “Thea” is Tre Monti’s top red wine and was vinified longer and aged in barrique for 9 months, so it is much deeper, smoother, and rounder.


Tre Monti “Thea” Sangiovese di Romagna Superiore Riserva DOC 2011($30 at South Lyndale Liquors)
Eye: Dark red, still translucent but just barely
Nose: Rich, deep dark red fruit, earth underneath
Mouth: Rich mouthfeel but quite tannic, wants “big” food.
A bit on the international side, rich and deep, smooth, although tannic.  15.5% alcohol, but it carries it well, it’s not overly hot.

This wine was just a bit much for the tagliatelle and Bolognese ragù.  Not bad, but I thought the wine would have paired with something even more meaty, like a steak. The DOC rules allow concentration of the wine by aging the grapes before vinifying, perhaps that is what has happened here?

Tagliatelle con Bolognese Ragù

Recipe adapted from Lynn Rosetto Kasper’s classic “The Splendid Table

Note: you should just plain double this recipe.  You can make and freeze or dry extra pasta, and freeze extra portions of the Bolognese!  If serving the Bolognese as the main dish, serve the salad afterwards.

Pasta Ingredients

  • 3 large farm fresh eggs
  • 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour

Pasta Instructions

  • Mound the flour, make a large enough indent for the eggs, crack the eggs and start mixing.  Keep incorporating flour until you get a dough that is moist but not too sticky. Note that you may not use all the flour, that’s ok.
  • Knead the dough until pliable, about 5 minutes. Form into a cylinder.
  • Wrap in plastic and let rest for 30 minutes.
  • Cut the pasta roll into 4 pieces.  Keep 3 wrapped in plastic while you work on 1 piece.
  • Flatten out the pasta and dust it with flour so it’s not too sticky.  Run through your pasta machine at it’s widest setting.
  • Fold the pasta over to the width of your pasta machine, and run it through again.  Then fold it over and run it through one final time.
  • Now, work your way down to the thinnest setting, dusting the ever longer & thinner pasta with flour if it feels like it is getting sticky.
  • Finally, cut your long, thin sheet of pasta in half, place one half on a flour dusted surface and the other next to it. Cutting the dough in half may be a rookie move on my part, but it makes it much easier for one person to handle! Let the sheets rest for about 15 minutes. Be careful to not let them touch each other, the dough will stick.
  • Run the pasta through the wide cutters on your pasta machine.
  • Dust the finished pasta with 00 durum flour. It’s a bit grainy compared to AP flour, and works well to keep the pasta from sticking to itself.
  • Coil the finished pasta strands into a mound and continue to the next batch.
  • Fill a large pot of water, add a generous tablespoon of kosher salt and bring to a rapid boil.
  • Start the final step when the Bolognese ragù is ready to go, your salad is made, the table is set and the wine is poured.
  • Fresh pasta cooks very quickly!  1-2 minutes is all it will take.  Scoop out the pasta with a wire strainer into a bowl.

Bolognese Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
  • 1 oz. pancetta chopped
  • 1 carrot finely chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 1/4 lb. skirt steak, coarsely ground by pulsing the food processor
  • 4 oz. white Trebbiano wine
  • 2 Tbsp triple concentrated Italian tomato paste
  • 8 oz. chicken stock
  • 12 oz. milk
  • Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

Bolognese Instructions

  • Start by warming the EVOO in a large saucier over a medium heat, then browning the pancetta in the oil.
  • Add the onion and saute until it is clear, but not brown, about 3 minutes
  • Add the carrots & celery and continue to saute for about 5 minutes
  • Add the skirt steak a bit at a time and allow it to brown
  • Add the wine to deglaze the pan
  • Turn the heat down to a simmer
  • Mix the tomato paste into the chicken stock and add to the pot, partially cover the pot
  • Add 1/4 cup of milk every 20 minutes
  • Allow at least two hours total for the sauce to develop
  • The sauce is done when it has the consistency of a very thick soup.  Add additional water or stock if it seems overly dry
  • Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste once the sauce is nearly done
  • Just before serving, add the pasta to the pan with the sauce and toss carefully.
  • Plate the pasta and top with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Roasted Brussels Sprouts


  • 12 oz. fresh brussels sprouts, quartered
  • 1/2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • freshly ground salt and pepper


  • Preheat the oven to 375° F
  • Mix the ingredients into a bowl, and spread on a 9×13 pan or cookie sheet, being careful to avoid crowding.
  • Roast for 30 minutes and serve!

Salad Ingredients

This salad has an Italian slant, with a bit of radicchio for some bitterness and fennel sticks for spice.

  • 1 small head of Bibb lettuce
  • 1 small head of radicchio
  • 1 small head of romaine lettuce
  • 1 bulb of fresh fennel, thinly sliced into sticks
  • 2 Tbsp EVOO, if you prefer a richer dressing, use a bit more oil
  • 2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp high quality balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Salad Instructions

  •  The greens can be prepared in advance.  Wash, dry and tear into bite-size pieces.
  • Add the fennel, cover and refrigerate
  • Combine all the liquid ingredients and a bit of salt and pepper in a shakeable jar
  • Just before serving, shake the dressing and toss into the salad.

Minnesota Resources
Wine: South Lyndale Liquors
Meat & eggs: Sunshine Harvest Farm, available at Mill City Farmers Market (Saturday, in season) and Kingfield Farmers Market (Sundays, in season)





7 Responses to “Emilia Romagna Classic – Tagliatelle con Bolognese Ragù”
  1. This looks ridiculously good. Recently had tagliatelle in Philly with tripe, it was so phenomenal; now I just need to find the same dish next time I’m in Italy to compare!

  2. arneis2013 says:

    Thanks, Jeff. Looks so yummy. I have about 3 pounds of ground wild boar that needs to be cooked. You gave me some ideas.

  3. Chrysten says:

    It’s simmering, but I just realized the recipe doesn’t say when to add the wine?

    • Thanks for catching the omission! Add the wine right after you brown the meat. Almost always you want the wine to deglaze the pan after the sauteeing is done, and giving the sauce plenty of time to boil off any alcohol.

  4. Chrysten says:

    It’s ok…I’ve thought of another use for it.

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