Bubble Bubble Toil & Trouble

January 2, 2010

Andy Thompson’s Legendary Three-Day Bolognese

This is a great recipe for the winter months when the weather rages and you want to spend a weekend (and I do mean the entire weekend) in the kitchen. As with all great recipes, this one benefits from adaptation to suit your own preferences. I offer it as a starting point that will produce rich and satisfying results. I intended to get this up sooner, but the holiday season had other plans for me. Better late than never. I’ve tinkered with this recipe a few times since it was passed down to me. This latest batch turned out well by all accounts, though I would also recommend a version without tomatoes for those of you less bound by tradition. As you‘ll see below, this recipe requires a lot of work, but freezes well so if you’re going to go to all the trouble, you may as well make a bunch. Happy cooking!

To make Andy Thompson’s Legendary Three-Day Bolognese, you will need:

Three days dedicated as follows:
Day One – Veal Stock;
Day Two – Assemble Sauce and Simmer;
Day Three – Simmer.

I will concede that you can accomplish this recipe in less than three days if you are willing to buy your stock or forego as much simmering time as I believe this sauce requires, but I leave those decisions to you, your schedule and your conscience.

Raw Veal Bones


Veal Stock (yields approx. 8 quarts of stock)

12 lbs. veal bones (see cook’s notes below)

6 large carrots quartered

4 large onions quartered

3 bulbs celery quartered

6 large garlic cloves crushed

1 bunch flat leaf (Italian) parsley

4 bay leaves (fresh if you’ve got them)

1 large fistful of fresh thyme (2 of those plastic herb capsules you can buy at the store)

6 rosemary sprigs (each about 6 inches long)

Water to cover in a 20 quart stock pot

(Note: Try to resist the urge to salt your stock. You will need to reduce it by quite a bit, which makes seasoning tricky.)

Roasted Veal Bones

For the Veal Stock

Finished Veal Stock

Get yourself a vessel of sufficient size. I borrowed a 20 quart stock pot for this purpose, but I’ve used several smaller vessels in a pinch. Heat your oven to 450◦F. Roast half of the veal bones on a baking sheet for about 20 minutes or until they are browned all over. You can skip this step and make a lighter “raw” veal stock, but I like the added depth that comes from roasting some of the bones. Once roasted, add all the bones to your pot as well as the carrots, onions, garlic and celery. You want the bones and vegetables to be compact in your pot so that they can be easily submerged by the water. Anything that is sticking up above the waterline will be wasted and will not give up its essence in your stock. Add the herbs – just pitch them in. You can use cheese cloth to construct a bouquet garni for the herbs if you like, but you’ll end up straining the stock several times anyway, so I don’t bother. Cover the whole lot and bring to a “tremulous” simmer – just the nuance of a boil where you can see the surface tremble – and skim off the scum that rises to the surface for the first 15 minutes. Cover and keep at barley a simmer for four hours (you can also leave in the oven at 250◦F provided you check periodically and adjust the temperature to ensure you are heating but not boiling off the stock you are working so diligently to produce). You don’t want to boil your stock so much as steep the ingredients in the water like a meat and vegetable “tea.” After four hours you’ve extracted what you want from the bones and vegetables. Turn your heat off. Let the whole thing cool (if you want) and remove the big pieces from the pot with a pair of tongs and discard. Strain the stock through a sieve or chinoise at least twice. Then strain through a sieve lined with cheese cloth. Once your stock is strained, taste it. You will probably need to reduce further to obtain the concentration you want. For the bolognese (and for a soup), I would reduce by half at least (presumably you’ll be adding other flavors to the soup you’re making, so you don’t want the stock too strong)a nd for sauces and general “finishing” purposes reduce by half again. You can use a hard boil to reduce your stock once it is well strained. If you want a very concentrated demi glace, you can reduce until you are left with a dark, rich, syrupy consistency that is great for making pan sauces and gravy. Reduction times will vary depending on your initial yield of stock and the concentration you’re after.

Bolognese (serves 14 with leftovers)

4 tbsp. Olive oil (more as needed)

2 lbs. beef round cubed

2 lbs veal shoulder cubed

2 lbs ground pork

(Note: You can use alternative cuts and combinations of meat. You can use all ground meat if you prefer, but I like my sauce on the toothsome side.)

4 large carrots diced

3 large onions diced

1 bulb celery diced

2 bulbs fennel diced

Picked leaves from 1/2 bunch thyme

Picked leaves from 5 stems rosemary

2 bay leaves

2 cups dry white wine

2 cups whole milk (or half and half!)

2.5 cups pureed plum tomatoes

Veal stock to cover (3-4 quarts)

Salt and pepper


For the Bolognese

Bolognese – Day 2

Begin by ensuring your meat is relatively dry. You want to brown the meat and develop a bit of caramelization, but this won’t happen if your meat is wet. To dry our meat you can either blot with paper towel or leave uncovered in your refrigerator for a couple of hours (be sure there are no offensive odors in your fridge that may cling to the meat). Assuming your meat is dry, heat a large dutch oven (big enough to hold your completed sauce) on high heat and add olive oil. Brown meat in batches (browning any ground meat last) and set aside. The bottom of the dutch oven will develop a bit of a crust from the caramelized protein. Remove the meat and add diced onion. If needed add additional olive oil to coat onions. Once onions begin to caramelize, add carrots, celery and fennel. Add herbs and salt and pepper to taste. Saute until vegetables begin to soften. Add browned meat (and any juices that have accumulated under the resting meat). Add wine and milk and reduce until pan is dry. Add pureed tomatoes (if using). Simmer and stir until heated through. Add veal stock to cover. Simmer on low heat (or in a low oven) for as long as you care to (usually 3-4 hours on day 2). Let cool and refrigerate overnight. Simmer further on day three (usually 3-4 hours more) tasting periodically and adding additional veal stock if your sauce looks dry. Ultimately you want your sauce a little loose because when you add the pasta for serving the starch will tighten it up. When you are about an hour away from serving (or finishing) your sauce, adjust the seasoning and take off the heat. If eating right away, put your pasta water on to boil. Depending on the consistency of the sauce you prefer and how much cooking time your sauce has received, you may wish to blend part of your sauce to ensure it will cling nicely to your pasta. You can use a food processor or blender, but I find an immersion blender does the trick nicely without having to shuttle the sauce back-and-forth between vessels. Serve with your favorite pasta (I like orrechiette or spaghetti) or cool and portion for freezing.

Bolognese - Day 3

And there you have it. While time-consuming, you can be proud of your industry and will be pleased with the results (as will the fortunate few allowed to partake). As noted above, you should experiment to suit your own tastes, but this version has worked well for me. Bon courage et bon appetit!

Worth the Wait

Cook’s notes – For those of you who are local, Draeger’s sells veal bones by the pound if you order ahead. You are likely to get a better price at your local carniceria.


2 Responses to “Bubble Bubble Toil & Trouble”

  1. Big Bill Berens Says:


  2. Uncle rich Says:

    Can you say Prego?….Nah, just Kiddin *smile*

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