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America's Test Kitchen: Ragu alla Bolognese

To celebrate 20 years of the most-watched cooking show on public television, America's Test Kitchen fans around the country voted for their all-time favorite recipes from the series. The results are presented in the America's Test Kitchen 20th Anniversary Special, as cast members including Bridget Lancaster, Julia Collin Davison, Jack Bishop and Adam Ried count down the series' 20 most popular recipes and look back on moments from the show's two decades on air.


America's Test Kitchen 20th Anniversary Special airs Saturday, November 23, 2019 at 1:00 pm, Sunday, November 24, 2019 at 6:00 pm and Thursday, November 28, 2019 at 8:00 pm.

  Enjoy this recipe from America's Test Kitchen 20th Anniversary Special.

Ragu alla Bolognese SERVES 4-6 There are many different ways to interpret what “real” Bolognese sauce is. But no matter what the ingredients are, the sauce should be hearty and rich, but not cloying, with a velvety texture that lightly clings to the noodles. For our version we used six different types of meats: ground beef, pork, and veal; pancetta; mortadella (bologna-like Italian deli meat);and chicken livers. These meats and the combination of red wine and tomato paste, gave us a rich, complex sauce with balanced acidity. The final addition of gelatin lent the sauce an ultra-silky texture.

  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 8 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
  • 1 onion, chopped coarse
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and chopped coarse
  • 1 celery rib, chopped coarse
  • 4 ounces pancetta, chopped fine
  • 4 ounces mortadella, chopped
  • 6 ounces chicken livers, trimmed
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¾ pound 85 percent lean ground beef
  • ¾ pound ground veal
  • ¾ pound ground pork
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh sage
  • 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
  • 2 cups dry red wine
  • 1 pound pappardelle or tagliatelle pasta
  • Parmesan cheese, grated, for serving
  1. Combine chicken broth and beef broth in bowl; sprinkle gelatin over top and set aside. Pulse onion, carrot, and celery in food processor until finely chopped, about 10pulses, scraping down bowl as needed; transfer to separate bowl. Pulse pancetta and mortadella in now-empty food processor until finely chopped, about 25 pulses, scraping down bowl as needed; transfer to second bowl. Process chicken livers in now-empty food processor until pureed, about 5 seconds; transfer to third bowl.
  2. Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add beef, veal, and pork; cook, breaking up pieces with spoon, until all liquid has evaporated and meat begins to sizzle, 10 to 15 minutes. Add chopped pancetta mixture and sage; cook, stirring frequently, until pancetta is translucent, 5 to 7 minutes, adjusting heat to keep fond from burning. Add chopped vegetables and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, 5 to 7minutes. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, until rust-colored and fragrant, about 3 minutes.
  3. Stir in wine, scraping pan with wooden spoon to loosen fond. Simmer until sauce has thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir in broth mixture and return to simmer. Reduce heat to low and cook at bare simmer until thickened (wooden spoon should leave trail when dragged through sauce), about 1½ hours.
  4. Stir in pureed chicken livers, bring to boil, and remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper to taste; cover and keep warm.
  5. Bring 4 quarts water to boil in large pot. Add pasta and 1 tablespoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Reserve ¾ cup cooking water, then drain pasta and return it to pot. Add half of sauce and cooking water to pasta and toss to combine.Transfer to serving bowl and serve, passing cheese separately.

Photo Credit: Joe Keller