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I have dabbled with almost every ingredient I can think of in varying amount to get my Bolognese to taste similar to a restaurant made Bolognese in the italian alps.

Including: Pepper Sugar Salt Tomatos and tomato puree, tinned and chopped tomatos garlic lea & perrins / Worcester sauce Onions & onion gravy granules different meats, pork, beef and veal Herbs Basil, greek basil, thyme and oregano red wine and most recently balsamic vinegar

These all get close and do make a nice Bolognese. However the secret ingredient is still missing!

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You would have to describe in some detail what the flavor or outcome that is missing is... and I am not sure how you would do that. There is an infinite variation in what individual local cooks do. –  SAJ14SAJ Sep 9 '13 at 13:26
    
I guess what my Bolognese's are missing is Moorish-ness. I think it wants to me in line with something like soy as I get closest with the balsamic vinegar but this can spoil it. Is there something umami esk that will go? –  Mr Sorbose Sep 9 '13 at 13:32
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There may also be psychological factors. Were you on vacation? With good company? These factors will affect your memory of the taste. –  Avrohom Yitzchok Sep 11 '13 at 20:24
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I wonder if @MrSorbose means more-ishness rather than Moorishness? I can't imagine an Alpine bolognese having many North African influences. –  ElendilTheTall Sep 12 '13 at 11:04
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I hate to put it this way, but you may be over-thinking what is added to the sauce. Remember, Italy, historically has not been very well off as a country. Most of their dishes tend to do amazing things with a few simple ingredients. Have you tried dumbing down the recipe some? –  Matthew Sep 13 '13 at 15:53
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8 Answers 8

up vote 1 down vote accepted

Milk

I don't see any dairy listed in the things you tried, but a true Ragù Bolognese (ie, in the style of Bologna, not the British tomato & meat sauce) contains a bit of dairy in it.

It also requires cooking for hours, as you want the meat to completely fall apart. By that time, the milk's completely incorporated and impossible to distinguish in the final sauce.

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My guess is a good, highly reduced, veal stock; I've found that this is (often) the difference between a really rich, flavourful, sauce and one that is lacking oomph.

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If you are missing an umami note, it's possible you are missing a very common ingredient in bolognese - chicken livers. These give a meaty, almost sweet flavour. Soak them in water for a few minutes, then finely chop or pulse in a food processor. I use minced (ground) pork, beef and chicken livers.

You might also try adding pancetta, to add a smoky tinge.

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pancetta isn't usually smoked. Spiced, yes, but not smoked. –  Joe Sep 13 '13 at 15:50
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Not sure what flavor you're looking for, but try adding a parmesan rind. Pull it out at the end of cooking.

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In my experience, there is no Bolognese without celery. I normally use very finely chopped celery stems, and add them after the onions have softened a little. You can use celery salt too, but fresh celery is best.

There is also something to be said for finely chopped carrots, but the effect on the overall flavor isn't that big.

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Dried, reconstituted porcinis? I've been tweaking Bolognese for a while now, adding those was an AHA moment. After reconstituting and chopping, I sauteed them with the sofrito. Very nice. The chicken livers mentioned above could be the key too, I just can't do it. I viscerally hate liver.

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A pinch of sugar cuts through the acidity of the tomatoes, also slow cooking improves texture and flavors.

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I use umami paste by Laura Santtini (in fact her entire line is awesome) as well as her tomato paste bomb. With a little Worcestershire sauce that added level of flavour depth is reached. Hope this helps.

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