Ragu alla Bolognese with Nattō Recipe


Photo by Farideh Sadeghin 

Serves: 4 to 6
Prep time: 1 hour
Total time: 3 ½ hours


for the hondashi:
3 teaspoons hondashi granules

for the tomato sauce:
1 (28-ounce|794-gram) can whole peeled tomatoes, passed through a food mill
¼ cup|60 ml extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, peeled and smashed
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon honey 

for the ragu:
1 pound|450 grams flank steak, cubed
1 pound|450 grams skirt steak, cubed
1 cup|140 grams pancetta, diced
1 cup|140 grams SPAM, diced
3 ribs celery, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 cup|250 ml extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup|225 grams kimchi, minced 
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 bay leaf
1 ½ cups|375 ml red wine
½ cup|125 ml mirin
½ cup|125 ml sake
¼ cup|60 ml soy sauce
3 cups|750 ml hondashi
2 cups|500 ml tomato sauce

to serve:
1 pound|454 grams fresh tagliatelle
kosher salt, to taste
2 cups|450 grams ragu alla bolognese
3 tablespoons Hikiwari nattō, plus more for serving
thinly sliced scallions, for garnish
freshly grated Parmesan cheese, to serve


  1. Make the hondashi: Combine the hondashi with 3 cups|750 ml water in a small saucepan over medium. Cook until the hondashi granules have dissolved and set aside until ready to use. 
  2. Make the tomato sauce: Heat the oil and garlic in a medium saucepan over medium-low until the garlic just begins to brown, about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes, salt, and honey and cook until the raw tomato flavor is lost and the sauce has reduced slightly, about 25 to 30 minutes. Set aside until ready to use. 
  3. Make the bolognese: Using a meat grinder with the largest die, grind the steaks and set aside. Without cleaning the grinder, pass the spam and pancetta together, then pass through a second time. Set aside. Without cleaning the grinder, pass the celery, carrot, and onion through, then set aside.
  4. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high. Add the pancetta and SPAM and cook until the fat has rendered, about 4 minutes. Stir in the vegetables and kimchi and cook until lightly golden, about 12 minutes. 
  5. Push the sofrito to the outer edges of the saucepan.If there isn’t a light coating of oil on the pan, add a touch of olive oil. Add the ground steak to the middle of the pot to lightly sear, 3 minutes. Season generously with salt and add a few grinds of black pepper. Stir in the bay leaf, then cook, breaking up the steak to mix it with the sofrito. Cook until the meat juices have rendered and reduced, about 10 minutes, then stir in the wine, mirin, sake, and soy sauce. Cook until just evaporated, about 12 minutes, then stir in the hondashi and tomato sauce. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to maintain a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is very tender, 1 ½ to 2 hours. Add a touch more water if the meat needs additional time. Season to taste and keep warm. 
  6. To serve: Heat the ragu in a large skillet over medium-low (you can freeze what you don’t immediately eat!). Add the nattō and stir to combine. Keep warm over low. 
  7. Bring a large pot of generously salted water to boil. Cook the pasta for 1 ½ minutes, then drain and toss into the saucepan with the bolognese. Add just enough pasta water to loosen the sauce if it becomes too tight. Transfer to a plate and sprinkle with scallions. Shave parm over to your liking. And you can always add more nattō if you like it funky!

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