I first made this dairy-free bolognese sauce in a private cooking class in Tuscany. We were lucky enough to stumble across Toscana e Gusto, a cooking program run by two kind and hilarious friends, Stephanie and Anna. I was a little apprehensive telling them beforehand that I couldn’t eat dairy – what crazy person spends a week in Italy and doesn’t eat cheese? (Me.)
Looking back, I shouldn’t have been surprised that it would be easy to create a delicious, authentic meal without butter, cheese or cream; olive oil is featured heavily in southern Italian cuisine (northern Italian tends to use more of the forbidden ingredients).
We arrived at Stephanie’s charming house in the town of Cortona and spent an unbelievable morning making homemade fettucine with Tuscan ragu, picci pasta with aglione sauce (tomatoes, olive oil, herbs) and breadcrumbs, foccaccia, and cantucci (a sort of biscotti that is local to the region). We ate and drank our way through the cooking, and the class ended with a feast in the sunny garden. The recipe below is my riff on Toscana e Gusto’s original Tuscan Ragu. Enjoy!
- 3-4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small onion, diced into small pieces
- 2 medium celery stalks, diced into small pieces
- 2 medium carrots, diced into small pieces
- 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
- ¾ lb. ground pork
- ¾ lb. ground beef
- 1 cup dry red wine
- 1 28 oz. can of whole peeled or crushed tomatoes (I prefer San Marzano tomatoes)
- A pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
- Vegetable or chicken broth (optional)
- salt to taste
- If using whole peeled tomatoes, pour into a bowl and crush with your hands.
- Heat olive oil in a large saute pan or dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion, carrot, and celery, and cook until the onion is translucent.
- Add the garlic and stir quickly, for about one minute. Don't let the garlic brown.
- Add the ground pork and beef, cooking on medium-high heat, and stir frequently until meat is cooked through.
- Drain the excess fat from the pot and return it to the stove.
- Add wine, and let it mostly evaporate, stirring occasionally.
- Add the tomatoes and nutmeg, and let the sauce come to a boil. Then, turn the heat to low, and let the sauce cook for 60 - 75 minutes, or until it reaches the desired consistency. (If the sauce gets too thick, thin it with a little vegetable broth, chicken broth, or even water.)
- Season to taste with salt.
- To serve: Cook pasta according to package directions (make sure the water is well salted). When it is al dente, add to a saucepan and finish cooking with the bolognese. Add salted pasta water as needed if the sauce gets too thick.