Bourbon Bolognese

Music Pairing: Vivaldi, Four Seasons


Pasta Bolognese is no stranger to our dinner table.  The earliest documented recipe of an Italian meat-based sauce (ragù) is noted as having come from 18th century Imola, outside of Bologna. Bologna also happened to be one of our all-time favorite places to visit!  There is an actual meat sauce for pasta recipe that is specifically described as “Bolognese” in Pellegrino Artusi’s 1891 cookbook.  Confession time: you will detect some definite irreverence and a lack of convention in ours.  But, we do think it is tasty and great fun to make.  The recipe, like almost every other, evolved with time.  Growing up, I (Afa) remember the tasty version of the meal made by my mother.  The much simpler, yet still hardy and reliable Russian version of “macaroni po-flotsky”, or Navy-style macaroni was a winter go-to.  Aaron has spent time in Italy as a young child with his adoptive family, so his palette is more accustomed to the more traditional version of the dish. As adults, we visited Bologna about 10 years ago, found the restaurant, at which Aaron had a traditional 6-course meal as a kid, and shared a plate of Bolognese.  Having tasted dozens of versions, we are offering the one that has become a well-known feature beloved by our family and friends.  Our take on this utilizes the special ingredient of bourbon, mostly because Aaron has become an aficionado, but also because its earthy taste adds a special set of notes on the palette.  Also, the version is not for the faint of heart…behold a dash/hint of chorizo, to make your taste buds light up!  Pour yourself a glass of Amarone Valpolicella, put on Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and give this recipe a go!



  • ½ lb fresh ground lean beef
  • 1/3 cup of ground chorizo
  • 3 T sea salt
  • 1 T fresh ground pepper
  • 1 T adobo seasoning
  • 1 T smoked paprika
  • ¼ cup Bourbon
  • 1 medium chopped onion
  • 10 cloves of crushed garlic
  • 1 bunch of chopped Italian parsley
  • 10 leaves of chopped fresh basil
  • 1 bunch of chopped fresh oregano
  • 6 large chopped tomatoes
  • 1 carton of chopped Pomi (or San Marzano Tomatoes)


  • Place the beef onto a warmed large skillet
  • Add the onion, garlic and spices and begin to cook until the red disappears, stirring periodically to help the consistency become completely ground up
  • Add the chorizo, and cook the mixture together, stirring periodically
  • Add the parsley and continue to cook, until nicely brown
  • Add the chopped tomatoes fresh chopped tomatoes first, creating a nice stew
  • In a separate saucepan, warm up the Pomi or San Marzano tomatoes
  • Add the browned meat mixture to the saucepan, add the rest of the chopped herbs, stir well and cover.  Allow this to cook for at least an hour, simply stirring periodically with a wooden spoon
  • Check on the sauce, add the bourbon and stir again
  • Allow to cook for another couple of hours on the lowest possible setting
  • Make your past of choice separately
  • Serve with grated parmesan, a good glass of red wine and some excellent Italian bread

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