Marcella and her husband Victor, who are now both well into their 80's, live part of their year in Venice, Italy, and the other part of the year on Longboat Key, Florida. My parents spend half their year on Longboat Key too, and the whole family just got back from Venice earlier this year, so I feel a bond with Marcella, however tenuous that might be!
One Autumn weekend when my husband and I were invited out of the city to a friend's cottage, we decided we'd make Marcella Hazan's Tagliatelle with Bolognese Sauce. We arrived early Friday afternoon, hours before the hosts and other 2 guests were expected. A bit embarrassing, but it gave us an opportunity to get a head start on the Bolognese, which we would be serving that night.
The traditional recipe is a Ragu which originated in Bologna, and uses soft ribbon-like tagliatelle — not spaghetti! It's also sweeter than the typical North American sauce we all grew up with — cooking the meat in milk before adding the wine and tomatoes, protects it from the acidic bite of the latter, the result being a mellow, gentle and comfortable flavour. Surprisingly, it only takes about 1/2 hour to prepare, just a lot of chopping. But simmering is the key. Marcella recommends a simmering time of 3 hours, but if you have the time, let the sauce simmer over low heat for 4-6 hours. Just be sure to stir it regularly with a wooden spoon so that the sauce doesn't stick. The principle is simple: the longer the sauce simmers, the richer the flavour and consistency becomes.
Judging from the Ragu with Tagliatelle we served that Friday night, it is worth the wait. There were no left overs and it was unanimously embraced as being truly outstanding by a table full of dedicated gastronomes. And as Marcella says,
"There is no more perfect union in all gastronomy than the marriage of Bolognese ragu with homemade Bolognese tagliatelle."