I've seen so many recipes called "Bolognese" that were essentially tomato sauce with ground beef. That's just a garden-variety meat sauce. Proper Bolognese is primarily meat with a bit of tomato and cream to bind it together. The best bolognese sauce I've ever eaten was, believe it or not, served at a small café in Paris, a couple blocks off the Champs-Élysées. From my recollection, it was full of tender meat and unlike any other tomato-based pasta sauce I have ever eaten. By today, more than 25 years have passed and I should no longer rely on my taste memory, however I stubbornly contend that I'll recognize it when I taste it again.
|Sauce before long-simmering. Looks kinda barfy, doesn't it?|
|Sauce three hours later. Still a bit barfy.|
|Dinner is served.|
The sauce smelled great and looked about perfect. Unfortunately, it didn't taste like very much at all, despite the tons of sage, vegetables, and a late addition of basil. It could have used several more cloves of garlic, and possibly some tomato paste for body and sweetness.
Several days later, we supped on the Bolognese again, expecting that after that much time in the fridge the sauce would have improved in time. But no. It was still basically a big pile of very soft meat in a flavorless gravy. Some might argue that skimming off the fat might be the problem, since fat carries flavor. However, I skim fat off of everything - short ribs, chili, beef stew, other tomato sauces - without adversely affecting the taste. And this stuff put out well over a cup of unappealing, floating fat - no way would a boiling after adding still more fat in the form of heavy cream have made it disappear into the sauce. Even if it did, I can imagine the mouthfeel would be unpleasantly unctuous.
There's still more than a full quart of sauce left. Most of it went into the freezer for later experimentation. About a cup of it will become hot dog sauce with the addition of ketchup, mustard, and chili powder (it's the perfect texture to top a dog). And I'm still on the hunt for the perfect Bolognese recipe.