David grew up on saucy pasta, as he likes to call it, so the true Italian ragù Bolognese seems to leave him a bit disappointed. I compromise by making it more-or-less Marcella Hazan's way but adding a can of tomato paste. There are probably as many ragù recipes as there are Italian mamas, and I've seen a number that contradict the firmly-opinionated Marcella, so I'm not terribly concerned with strict authenticity! but this sauce should never be runny.
I always find it a bit of a bother to measure the amount of vegetables instead of using a certain number of carrots, for instance, so I usually do it this way.
Try adding some finely chopped pancetta or prosciutto with the meat. I have in a pinch substituted sherry for white wine, and it also works well.
Italians do not serve ragù on spaghetti, but on a thicker pasta such as tagiliatelle or fettucine. It is also good on rigatoni and fusilli, or other sturdy pasta, but to be honest, it really depends on what's in the cupboard or fridge. Leftovers make good Sloppy Joes, too.
1 tablespoon oil
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 medium onion
2 small carrots or 1 large carrot
2 small celery stalks or 1 large stalk
3/4 lb. ground beef chuck
salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup milk (not nonfat)
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 cups canned tomatoes, preferably Italian, with juices
6 oz. tomato paste
Process the onion, carrot, and celery in a food processor until finely ground, or chop as finely as you can.
Put the oil and butter in a large, heavy pan over medium heat. Add the vegetables and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is translucent, about 3 minutes.
Add the ground beef and a pinch of salt and pepper, if desired. Crumble the meat with a wooden spatula, stir well, and cook until the beef is no longer pink.
Add the milk and simmer gently, stirring frequently, until it has evaporated completely. Add the nutmeg. Stir in the wine, and let it simmer until it has evaporated. Add the tomatoes, and stir well. Turn down the heat to the lowest possible simmer and cook, uncovered, for 3 hours or more, stirring occasionally. (You may take the sauce off the heat at any point after this, as long as you resume cooking it the same day.) If the ragù begins to dry out, add 1/2 or so of water as necessary. The ragù should be dry at the end, with the fat separating from the sauce. Add salt to taste.
Serve on cooked, drained pasta, with freshly-grated Parmesan on the side.
Refrigerate in a tightly sealed container for up to 3 days, or freeze as needed. Reheat by simmering for 15 minutes or so, stirring occasionally.
Makes about 6 servings (about 1/3 cup per person) with 1 1/2 pounds of pasta. Preparation time, about 1 hour; total time, at least 4 hours.