Dinner Diaries

Venison Ragù alla Bolognese

Venison Ragù alla Bolognese

By Tim H. Martin

Where deer season meets Italian seasoning


• 1 1/2 to 2 lbs. ground venison or ground beef

• 1 lb. ground pork or ground turkey

• 4 oz. pancetta or slab bacon, finely chopped

• 8 oz. button mushrooms or baby portabellas, sliced

• 2 stalks celery, finely chopped

• 1/2 cup carrots, finely chopped

• 1 onion, chopped

• 7 cloves garlic, minced

• 2 bay leaves

• 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes

• 2 tablespoons tomato paste

• 3/4 cup beef broth

• 1 cup red wine

• 3 tablespoons butter, (1 to sauté vegetables, 2 for sauce)

• 2 tablespoons olive oil

• 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

• 1/4 teaspoon sugar

• kosher salt, to taste

• black pepper, to taste

• 1 tablespoon rosemary

• 1 tablespoon oregano

• 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning

• 1/4 cup whole milk or cream

Garnish with finely-grated Parmigiano /Reggiano cheese and parsley sprigs.

Serve over wide noodles such as fettuccini, or over ravioli.

*Ragù alla Bolognese also makes a wonderful lasagna sauce.


In a heavy pot with a lid or Dutch oven, heat olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter on med-high heat. Soften onions, celery, mushrooms, carrots and garlic. Add wine and cook off alcohol, then add everything else except meats and milk. In a separate pan, brown meats, drain, then add to pot. Lower the heat to a SLOW simmer. Cook for about 2 hours with lid partially ajar. When sauce has thickened, remove pot from heat and add milk. Stir occasionally for a few minutes, allowing sauce to cool down before serving. Leftover sauce freezes well.

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Don’t Skip the ‘Weird Stuff’

– By Tim H. Martin

Ragù alla Bolognese (pronounced “bowl-uh-knees”) is one of those recipes I like to cook when I have a free evening to listen to music and unwind. It makes the house smell rich and alive for several hours.

After hearing numerous TV chefs rave about this sauce, I researched several cooking methods from the birthplace of the dish, Bologna, Italy. I decided to create my own recipe combining traditional Italian methods, but using venison.

Unlike American pasta sauces, the Italians use ingredients like carrots, celery, nutmeg and milk. My wife and kids thought I’d gone nuts when they first saw me pouring milk into their pot of spaghetti sauce. My daughter shrieked, “Ew, Dad, why are you putting weird stuff in there?” My son cried, “Dad, you’re RUINING it!” My wife wailed, “My Mama NEVER put milk in her spaghetti sauce!”

But they were hungry and tried the Ragù, just nibbling at first. I knew I was on to something when they came back for seconds and I heard them arguing over leftovers the next day.

After four years of tweaking my recipe, my family says regular spaghetti sauce simply isn’t good enough anymore, and they openly request Ragù Bolognese.

So, if you’re not familiar with this type of sauce, don’t let ingredients like carrots, nutmeg and milk scare you away. Leaving them out would rob you of the surprisingly hearty layers of taste and nutrition; the way Italian mothers have served for centuries.

Tip 1: Cooking it the day before serving and refrigerating overnight is the way to go. The next day, the flavors have intensified and are practically bursting through the pot.

Tip 2: I’m a fan of authentic Italian Parmigiano/Reggiano freshly grated from a wedge verses canned American-style shaker Parmesan. A real wedge from Italy is one luxury worth paying a little extra for.

Tip 3: If you want to kick up the flavors even more, add a dash of Greek seasoning.

Copyright 2018 by Buckmasters, Ltd.

Copyright 2017 by Buckmasters, Ltd