Pharm to Table – Bologna Sauce


Pharm to Table – Bringing Organic Chemistry to the Kitchen

Bologna sauce has been a staple in the Kermit and Friends community, but bologna cannot be found in this chatter’s household. On the other hand, Bolognese can be found in my refrigerator on a regular basis.

In the United States, bologna refers to processed meat that many Americans buy at a deli counter or in prepackaged containers at a grocery store. Bologna is usually composed of beef, pork, chicken, or a combination of all three, which is chopped, seasoned and formed into a symmetrical shape. The main ingredient used is normally a by-product such as lips, tripe, and other organs. There are two methods for preparing the ingredients: emulsion, where hydrophobic proteins react with fat, and the hydrophilic components react with water to hold fat in the solution; and non emulsion, which is typically for coarser grinds. The product is usually laced with autolyzed yeast and sodium nitrites for flavoring and preservation. The finished product disguises as a meat that looks pleasing to a naïve shopper’s palate. However, I am well educated in the disgusting product and its manufacturing process and I choose not to indulge. I feel the bologna is disguising as something genuine, but I want to see the real meat.

Alternatively, traditional bolognese, also known as ragu bolognese, has stood the test of time dating back to the 18th century in Bologna, Italy. It is not manufactured but made with love, patience, and skill. Bolognese is a hearty meat sauce that is served over hearty, large pasta such a pappardelle or tagliatelle and NEVER with pastas like linguine, elbow macaroni, or ditalini because they are too dainty and can’t handle the strength of the sauce. It is seasoned simply and doesn’t need to hide behind anything or pretend it is something that it is not.

It is time to expose bologna for what it really is:

  • A mystery meat that poses as something genuine that may be made from flapping lips and a heart, but no love.
  • Full of yeast and nitrites that may cause cancer if over indulging.
  • Must be molded into something that is only pleasing to naïve individuals

My advice, lose the bologna philosophy and get with the bolognese: genuine, strong, and clever.

Mario Batali’s Ragu Bolgnese

Ingredients: (you can either use all 3 meats listed or just a combination of 2)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
2 medium onions, finely chopped
4 celery stalks, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
3/4 pound ground veal
3/4 pound ground pork
3/4 pound ground beef
1 (8-ounce) can tomato paste
1 cup milk
1 cup dry white wine
Kosher salt, to taste
1 pound tagliatelle
Parmigiana Reggiano, for serving

In a 6- to 8-quart enamel-coated heavy-bottomed pot, heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat. Add the onions, celery and carrots and sweat over medium heat until vegetables are translucent but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add the veal, pork, and beef and stir into vegetables. Brown over high heat, stirring to keep the meat from sticking. Add the tomato paste, milk and wine. Using a wooden spoon, scrape at the bottom of the pan to dislodge browned bits of meat. Bring just to a boil, and then simmer over medium-low heat for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Season with salt.
Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil and add 2 tablespoons of salt.
Transfer 2 cups of the ragu to a 12- to 14-inch sauté pan and heat gently over medium heat. Cook the tagliatelle for 2 minutes less than the package instructions indicate. Drain the pasta, then add it to the pan with the ragu and toss over medium heat until it is coated and the sauce is dispersed, about 1 minute. Divide evenly among six to eight warmed bowls. Grate Parmigiano Reggiano over each bowl and serve immediately.