Elk Bolognese

Elk Bolognese


Bolognese sauce (UK: /ˌbɒləˈneɪz, -ˈnɛz/, US: /ˌboʊlənˈjeɪz/;[1] known in Italian as ragù alla bolognese, pronounced [raˈɡu alla boloɲˈɲeːze; -eːse], ragù bolognese, or simply ragù) is a meat-based sauce originating from Bologna, Italy, hence the name.

Regardless of the season there isn’t much that warms a soul better than a big plate of pasta topped with a classic, slow-cooked Bolognese Sauce.

This is a sauce with rules. It is built on a base of onion, carrot and celery. Nor does it have lots of herbs in it. The sauce contains dairy products. And tomato, while present, is not the star of the sauce. The meat is. And to make a real Bolognese, it must cook a long, long time.

As with most wild game recipes, I have tweaked the classic just a bit to make it work with elk. Since elk is leaner than the traditional mixture of ground beef chuck and ground pork in most Bolognese sauce recipes, I add a bit of fat in the form of diced bacon (although one could use pancetta). The bacon itself breaks down during the relatively long cooking time, so you don’t really notice it in the final dish, but the flavor and texture that the small amount of pork fat really adds to the dish.

  • 2 pounds ground elk
  • 6-8 slices bacon (diced) (pancetta could also be used here)
  • 1 medium onion (finely chopped)
  • 1 stalk celery (finely chopped)
  • 1 large carrot (finely chopped)
  • 1 shallot (finely chopped)
  • 4 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 1 can (28 ounce) San Marzano tomatoes (crushed)
  • 1-2 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup whole milk or cream (you will need to use double cream to prevent any separating (48–60% fat content) )
  • 1 ½ pounds dry Tagliatelle pasta

Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese for grating

Prep Work

Start by either chopping or dicing your basic ingredients. This would include your bacon, onion, celery, carrot, shallot and garlic. I also portion out my dry ingredients in small stainless steel portion cups.

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Prep Work Done.
Cooking Instructions

Start by adding the olive oil and diced bacon to a heavy pot (an enameled cast iron pot is perfect) using medium heat. Render the bacon (or pancetta) until crisp. Next add the diced onion, carrot, celery and shallot and cook for approximately fifteen minutes, stirring often.

Add the ground elk and cook till it is browned through, this should take about 15 minutes. Add the garlic and raise the heat to medium-high then add the wine and beef broth. Cook sauce until wine and broth are mostly evaporated.

Turn down the heat to a simmer and add oregano, basil, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Let this cook for approximately 20 minutes. Now add the crushed tomatoes and tomato paste and bring heat up until you have a boil. After a few minutes, reduce the heat to a simmer.

Let the sauce simmer (very slowly) partially covered for about 2 to 4 hours (the longer the better), do stir occasionally to prevent sticking.

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Bolognese is done.

About 5 to 10 minutes before serving, add milk or cream and butter.

Just before the sauce is finished, bring one gallon of water to a boil, add two tablespoons of salt and the pasta. Cook for eight to 10 minutes or until the pasta is al dente. Top with the bolognese sauce and cheese just before serving.

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The Final Product.