The first time I tasted Bolognese sauce was my first visit to Italy in 1969. I had it again in a restaurant located near Dupont Circle, Washington, D.C. It was only on their "Primi Piatti" (first dishes) menu. I always ordered it for my main course. I worked on duplicating this recipe for 20 years. Penne translates to "quills" or "pens". You will find penne pasta in two forms, lisce (smooth) or rigate (furrowed). Bolognese sauce is also delicious with tagliatelle or papparelle pasta.
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
1 large yellow onion, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic
2 T extra-light olive oil or avocado oil, divided
¼ lb pancetta, diced
2 ½ lbs lean ground beef
½ cup dry white wine
3 cups beef broth
2 cups water
2 (6-oz) cans tomato paste
4 T unsalted butter
1 cup whole milk
2 t dried oregano
8 leaves fresh basil, torn or chiffonade
¼ t nutmeg
½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ t red pepper flakes (optional)
Fresh basil, for garnish
In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, process the carrots, onion, celery, and garlic until finely minced.
In a Dutch oven or large pot, add the 1 tablespoon of the oil and cook the soffritto over medium heat for 10 minutes. Spoon mixture into a very large bowl and set aside.
In the same Dutch oven or large pot, over medium heat, add the rest of the oil and cook the pancetta until golden.
Add a third of the ground beef and brown until crumbly, about 10 minutes.
As the meat cooks, break up any chunks with a wooden spoon into small pieces.
Spoon into the large bowl with the soffritto.
Repeat with half of the rest of the beef, then spoon into the bowl with the cooked vegetables.
Repeat with the last of the beef.
Return the browned beef and soffritto to the pot.
Add the wine, stirring up browned bits on the bottom of the pan.
Add the beef broth, water, tomato paste, salt, and pepper; mix in well.
Simmer very gently, partially covered, for 3 hours, stirring often.
Add the butter and rest of the ingredients and simmer another 15 minutes.
Boil the penne in salted water until al dente "to the tooth".
Drain into a colander and then pour back into the pot.
Spoon in some of the Bolognese sauce and stir to combine.
Spoon onto warm pasta bowl and add a little more sauce, if desired, and garnish with fresh basil.