Alice Waters’ Bolognese Sauce on Pappardelle Pasta

February 3rd, 2014

Bolognese Sauce 1


One of the most trusted and influential food authorities of our era is Alice Waters.  Her innovative Chez Panisse restaurant set the bar high for high quality seasonal food provided by local sources.  One of her latest books, The Art of Simple Food, is a classic for our time.  So many new cookbooks have overblown recipes and complicated fey ingredients.  The beauty of this book is that it offers basic techniques that can be expanded upon.  It is perfect for the novice cook or for old hands like me, who want definitive recipes for classic dishes.  I have been searching for a great Bolognese sauce.  I found it in Alice’s book.

Bolognese Sauce 2V

Bolognese Sauce is a rich vegetable and beef studded mixture that relies more on beef broth, wine and milk than on tomato sauce.  Waters’ classic rendition uses skirt steak, pancetta and ground pork for the meat mixture.  She suggests that the sauce is time consuming to make and recommends doubling the ingredients so that you have some sauce in reserve for a future meal.  I did not find it too time consuming.  I just pictured myself as an Italian Signora making her Sunday gravy.  Nothing to it really.  Of course if I had made my own Pappardelle pasta by hand, I might have felt overwhelmed.  But we have a wonderful Italian Market in town that has authentic egg pappardelle pasta.

Bolognese Sauce 3

This was a satisfying simple meal.  Alice Waters’ credentials are impeccable.  I may try her version of Minestrone next.  See my Favorite Reads on the sidebar if you are interested in getting The Art of Simple Food.  I will be ordering copies as wedding gifts for future weddings to which we are invited.  This generation of cooks deserve the best advice and Alice Waters delivers.  What cookbook would you recommend for a novice cook?

We will be traveling to Washington DC this week.  Among other things, I plan to visit Julia Child’s kitchen again at the Museum of American History.  It has been moved and updated.  We have rented a small apartment in Dupont Circle and plan to also visit lots of good restaurants in the area.  I will try to keep you updated on our trip.  I hope we do not get stuck in a blizzard on The Mall.


Heat in a large heavy-bottomed pot:
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 ounces pancetta, diced fine
Cook over medium heat until lightly browned, about 5 minutes.  Add:
1 small onion, diced fine
1 celery stalk, diced fine
1 carrot, diced fine
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
5 sage leaves
2 thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 12 minutes

While the vegetables are cooking, heat in a large heavy-bottomed pan, preferably cast iron:
1 tablespoon olive oil
Add and brown over medium-high heat, in two batches:
1 pound skirt steak, cut into 1/8-inch cubes
4 ounces pork,ground
Cook until the meat is a nice chestnut color.  Once all the meat is browned, pour in:
1 cup dry white wine
Reduce the wine by half, scraping the brown bits off the bottom of the pan.  Add the browned meat and the deglazing juices to the tender vegetables with:
2 tablespoons tomato paste
Measure and stir together:
2 cups beef or chicken broth
1 1/2 cups milk
Pour enough of this liquid into the pot to bring it to the level of the meat and vegetables.  Simmer gently until the meat is very tender, about 1 1/2 hours.  As the liquid reduces, keep topping it up with the rest of the broth and milk, and skimming the fat that rises to the surface.

When the meat is tender, remove the sauce from the heat and season to taste with more salt, if needed, and:
Fresh-ground black pepper

Include 1/4 cup dried porcini, soaked, drained, and chopped fine, with the diced vegetables.

Other cuts of beef can be used instead of skirt steak.  Chuck or hanging tenderloin will make a delicious sauce, although hanging tenderloin will require at least an hour more of cooking time to become tender.  During the additional cooking time it may be necessary to add more broth or milk to keep the sauce from becoming too dry.

Printable recipe

23 responses to “Alice Waters’ Bolognese Sauce on Pappardelle Pasta”

  1. Penny @ The Comforts of Home says:

    That looks delicious and perfect to make on a cold February day. One restaurant we really enjoyed while in DC last spring was Old Ebbit Grill. Here is a link:

    • Penny Klett says:

      Thanks Penny. We ate there years ago and I will put it on our list for this trip. We are in Dunn Loring right now with Kristen’s folks. Freezing rain last night. We head to DC tomorrow.

  2. Sam Hoffer says:

    Alice Waters is one of the most creative cooks of our time and her bolognese sauce is a perfect example of her talent. Have fun in D.C. There are a lot of very fine restaurants there as you know.

    • Penny Klett says:

      Hi Sam. I agree about Alice. I would follow her anywhere. We actually went to the winery (Tempier Bandol) in Provence that she loves. Their wines are served at her restaurant.

  3. rachel-dd says:

    I just drop in from time to time, reading and looking my eyes full, taking in all your wonderful adventures and travels and cooking in great greedy gulps. I so enjoy seeing your pictures and all the lovely meals and friends you’re sharing them with.
    Today’s visit has been perfect for this snow-covered, about-to-be-much-more day, and I wish you well and warm for this new year and all its blessings to come.

    • Penny Klett says:

      Hi Rachel, Thank you so much for your kind words. It means so much to me. We have left Florida for a trip to the DC area and are freezing right now. What is wrong with this picture.LOL.

  4. Jane says:

    This sounds like a fantastic cookbook, I am loving “simple” these days. I’ve always wanted to make a Bolognese sauce and this looks like a good place to start. Just wondering…I’d like to not use the milk in the recipe, it’s not on my diet. Cream, however is (go figure). Do you think I can substitute? I might have to reduce the amount and add water.


    • Penny Klett says:

      Hi Jane. Cream would work perfectly with this dish. You could thin it if you like. Also ground beef would work just as well as skirt steak. Stay warm. I know it has been brutal for you this winter.

  5. Larry says:

    We love bolognese and this sure sounds like a gourmet version – wish we were there to share it with you.

  6. Mimi Johns says:

    That looks like comfort food, and romantic comfort food, too. I think I will try it.

  7. M Talmage says:

    I am making this tomorrow. Looks fabulous…I can taste it already.
    Thanks, fellow gourmand.

  8. […] Alice Waters, William Sonoma and Bon Appetite all have small variations on Hazan’s recipe, but you get the idea that hers is the gold standard, when it comes to making the rich, meaty sauce.  Still, there’s some debate as to whether a true Bolognese has basil.  I went with the camp that favors leaving out extra herbs and spices and concentrates on the flavors of the meat (beef, pork, veal, pancetta) and vegetables (onions, carrots, celery, tomatoes). […]

  9. Bellée says:

    Has anyone else made this? I love “Simple Food” and just about everything else I’ve made from it has been delicious, but this one did not turn out. First, the dicing of the skirt steak took me forever–maybe this is what she was talking about being time consuming? And the resulting sauce is kind of watery, but it’s been 1.5 hours so I’m afraid to simmer any longer and overcook the beef. I’m going to put it away now (maybe freeze it) — Is it OK to keep going on another day and simmer it down further?

    • Dido says:

      All versions of Bolognese that I’ve seen involve very long simmer times – as in, 3-5 hours. You cannot overcook the beef; it’s not meant to maintain its structural integrity, but more or less melt into the whole. Just keep adding a little liquid as it seems to dry out. It won’t dilute the flavour, because the extra evaporates.

  10. Anonymous says:

    One small cultural difference: Cooking celery down for a prolonged period of time imparts a pronounced “cabbagy” flavor. Being Russian, that is not at all a good thing. (sorry Martha) By substituting finely minced green pepper, the “green” flavor of the mirepoix is imparted without the offensive cabbage effect. After the prolonged cook-down, there is no visual difference. A HUGE improvement to a classic. Don’t fear change. Even Julia Child can be improved. It’s about personal taste. One more trick is to caramelize the onions before adding the carrots and celery/pepper. This adds a huge boost in flavor while, at the same time, helping to eliminate that “beef stew” look of chunks of translucent onions floating around. Purists be damned. Where are the Food Police who stamp one recipe as the “real” recipe, to the exclusion of all others ?

    • Em says:

      You don’t like celery. Carmelized onion is not the same flavor. These “improvements “ fundamentally change the recipe

  11. Mark Powell says:

    Does doubling the recipe change cooking times?

  12. Sera says:

    Would be helpful if there were some actual reviews of this!

  13. Wow. This looks incredible!

  14. NapaCasual says:

    I just made Hazan’s version. It took forever and was good but not mind-boggling. I laws searching for a bit more depth and umami. I’m going to use pancetta next time, brown the meat separately, and simmer for the full 5 hours. Thank you for sharing this.

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