The Ragù according to the Simili Sisters
Margherita and Valeria Simili, generally known as the Simili Sisters, began working in a family baking business in Bologna in 1946. “More than a business, the bakery that the Simili Sisters ran in Via San Felice and then in Via Frassinago was a meeting point for all of Bologna’s gourmets,” wrote Stefano Bonilli, the Bolognese-born director and founder of the famous Italian magazine Gambero Rosso.
In 1986 Margherita and Valeria Simili started to teach cooking courses at the Hotel Milano Excelsior di Bologna and three years later they opened the Scuola di Cucina delle Sorelle Simili – the Simili Sisters’ School of Cooking that became famous around the world and was closed in the summer of 2001.
The Simili Sisters published two noteworthy books in Italian, Pane e roba dolce – Bread and Sweet Things and Sfida al mattarello – Challenge for the Rolling Pin, subtitled I segreti della sfoglia bolognese – The Secrets of Bolognese Puff Pastry in 2005.
Their third book, La buona cucina di casa – Good Home Cooking, has recently come out.
RAGÙ ALLA BOLOGNESE
25 g butter
50 g pancetta or prosciutto di Parma, chopped
500 g beef, ground (scanello or cartella)
500 g tomatoes, peeled and pureed
2 spoons of onion, chopped
2 spoons of celery, chopped
2 spoons carrot, chopped
1 chicken liver, chopped
1/ cup white wine, dry
2 cups milk
2 cups of broth
Salt, pepper, a hint of nutmeg, 2 spoons oil
- Chop the vegetables separately.
- Chop the pancetta.
- Prepare the chicken liver. Clean it well. Be sure to remove the slightest trace of green bile, because if not the chicken liver will be very bitter. Don’t chop it but rather crush it with the blade of a knife and separate the nerve fibres from the pieces of flesh and, once done completely, chop the pieces with a knife alone. This should be carried out with care, because if nerve fibres stay attached to the liver, it will not amalgamate well with the other ingredients and so its flavour will be too strong.
- Have the wine within reach.
- Have the milk close to the stovetop.
- Place the tomato and broth in a saucepan on a low flame.
- Place the butter and the oil in the pan, then immediately add the onion.
- Sauté the onion slowly, stirring continuously.
- At first the fats become milky and the aroma very harsh due to the presence of the vegetable effluents of the onion.
- As soon as this temperament has been absorbed, the fats will once again clarify and the aroma sweeten. At this point, and not a moment before, add the celery and a minute later the carrot. If the three vegetables were sautéed together, the other two would absorb the juice of the onion, the flavour of which is so intense that it would hide the more delicate flavours of the celery and the carrot thus turning the three into onion.
- As soon as this base is ready, add the pancetta and let it sauté a minute.
- So now it’s the chicken liver’s turn. Free the centre of the pan by moving all the vegetables to the edge. Chicken liver coagulates immediately and it would cling to any ingredient in its vicinity and impart its flavour to it, which would become too intense. Therefore, place the chicken liver in the middle of the pan alone, continuously flattening and stirring it until it completely changes colour, which shows that it has cooked. Then and only then, bring the vegetables back to the middle of the pan and stir everything together for a moment.
- And next, the beef – a delicate moment. In order to avoid turning the beef into, for all intents and purposes, broth, a few seconds after having added the other ingredients, proceed in the following manner: bring the flame to the maximum and after a moment add a third of the beef by flaking it into the pan, then with a wooden spatula, flattening and turning it over continuously while leaving the bottom of the pan partially uncovered in order that the moisture that forms will evaporate rather than turn into liquid. As soon as this part of the beef has changed its colour partially, free the middle of the pan again and add, flake and mix another third of the beef as with the first third and then, once again in the middle, add the last third.
- Once all the beef is sautéed, add a first part of the wine, not by pouring it onto the beef but rather around the edge of the pan because cold ingredients should not be poured upon the bubbling hot beef. This way, when the wine arrives to the beef, it will certainly already be heated. Don’t pour in all the wine in one dose; let it evaporate over two or three doses. The wine will have completely evaporated, not when you see it disappear as liquid from the pan but rather when you can’t detect its aroma any more.
- At this point add the hot milk in two or three doses and let it be absorbed until it has formed a nice cream.
- Pepper and salt.
- Transfer the concoction to a smaller and higher pot in order to avoid that it evaporates too quickly while cooking.
- Add the hot tomato and broth; adjust the flame to hold the ragù at a simmer for around two hours while stirring often.
The Classic Bolognese Ragù according the Accademia Italiana della Cucina
With a solemn decree of the Accademia Italiana della Cucina – the Italian Academy of Cuisine, the present was notarized and deposited in the Palazzo della Mercanzia, the Chamber of Commerce of the City of Bologna on the 17th of October 1982.
300 gr. beef cartella (thin skirt)
150 gr. pancetta, dried
50 gr. carrot
50 gr. celery stalk
50 gr. onion
5 spoons tomato sauce or 20 gr. triple tomato extract
1 cup whole milk
Half cup white or red wine, dry and not frizzante
Salt and pepper, to taste.
The pancetta, cut into little cubes and chopped with a mezzaluna chopping knife, is melted in a saucepan; the vegetables, once again well chopped with the mezzaluna, are then added and everything is left to stew softly. Next the ground beef is added and is left on the stovetop, while being stirred constantly, until it sputters. The wine and the tomato cut with a little broth are added and everything left to simmer for around two hours, adding little by little the milk and adjusting the salt and black pepper. Optional but advisable is the addition of the panna di cottura of a litre of whole milk at the end of the cooking.