Adapted from Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking
Ingredients (for four to six servings)
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons of butter
2/3 cup chopped onion
2/3 cup chopped celery
2/3 cup chopped carrot
1 pound ground beef (not lean, it has to be at least 80/20)
Black pepper, ground fresh from the mill
1 cup whole milk
1 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 cups canned imported Italian plum tomatoes, cut up, with their juice
1 pound pasta (preferable tagliatelle or fettuccine)
Freshly grated parmesan cheese at the table
1. Put olive oil, oil, butter, and chopped onion in the pot, and turn the heat on to medium. Cook and stir the onion until it has become translucent, then add the chopped celery and carrot. Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring the vegetables to coat them well.
2. Add the ground beef, a large pinch of salt, and a few grindings of pepper. Crumble the meat with a fork, stir well, and cook until the beef has lost its raw, red color.
3. Add the milk and let it simmer gently stirring frequently, until it has bubbled away completely. It’s very important to wait until all milk is gone! Add a tiny grating-about 1/8 teaspoon – of nutmeg, and stir.
4. Add the wine, let it simmer until it has evaporated, then add the tomatoes and stir thoroughly to coat all ingredients well. When the tomatoes begin to bubble, turn the heat down so that the sauce cooks at the laziest of simmers, with just an intermittent bubble breaking through to the surface. Cook, uncovered, for 3 hours or more, stirring from time to time. While the sauce is cooking, you are likely to find that it begins to dry out and the fat separates from the meat. To keep it from sticking, continue the cooking, adding 1/2 cup of water whenever necessary. At the end, however, no water at all must be left and the fat must separate from the sauce. Taste and correct for salt.
You may think that three hours is a long time to cook this, however, the sauce will taste much, much better if you cook it for at least 3 hours. Once, I have actually cooked for just 1.5 hours and it didn’t taste as good. It’s also important to use a heavy pot which retains heat better.
5. Toss with cooked drained pasta, adding the tablespoon of butter, and serve with freshly grated Parmesan on the side.