Fiddler's Favorite Recipes Episode 20: Robert Chen Family's Bolognese Sauce

May 12, 2020, 1:22 PM · It is hard to believe we are at Episode #20 already, so to celebrate, we have the Chen Family with Robert leading the show. I have known this incredibly talented family for years and between all of of them, I could fill up this blog with an endless list of accomplishments!

Robert Chen and family

We will start with Robert Chen, who has been concertmaster of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra since 1999, where he has been a featured soloist with Riccardo Muti, Pierre Boulez, Bernard Haitink, Christoph Eschenbach, among others. He gave the CSO premiere of Ligeti’s Violin Concerto, Carter’s Violin Concerto, and Lutoslawski’s Chain Two, as well as the world premiere of Augusta Read Thomas’s Astral Canticle. Robert also enjoys a solo career and is an avid chamber musician having performed with Itzhak Perlman, Pinchas Zukerman, Yo-Yo Ma, Lang Lang to name a few….

Robert's wife Laura, at the young age of just 19, joined the Philadelphia Orchestra. Beginning in 1991, she served as assistant concertmaster with the Boston Symphony for five years. She then became concertmaster of the Brooklyn Philharmonic and guest concertmaster of the Royal Opera in Stockholm. Laura has appeared as a soloist with the Philadelphia Orchestra, Seoul Philharmonic, Korean Broadcasting System Orchestra, Lithuanian National Philharmonic, and Aarhus Symphony Orchestra.

Bea, their daughter, recently won first prize for Viola in the prestigious Johansen International Competition in Washington, D.C and in the Philadelphia Orchestra Albert. M. Greenfield Student Competition. Bea currently attends the Curtis Institute of Music.

And finally, Noah is a budding cellist at the Juilliard School, and he was the winner of the CYSO Concerto Competition.

I could go on, but I am getting hungry! So let us enjoy this Fabulous Foursome's "Chen’s Bolognese Sauce"! Be sure to watch through to the blooper reel at the end!

Based on Marcella Hazan’s Bolognese Sauce


  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons butter plus 1 tablespoon for tossing the pasta
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • ? cup chopped celery
  • ? cup chopped carrot
  • ¾ pound ground beef chuck (or you can use 1 part pork to 2 parts beef)
  • Salt
  • Black pepper, ground fresh from the mill
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • Whole nutmeg
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 ½ cups canned imported Italian plum tomatoes, cut up, with their juice
  • 1 ¼ to 1 ½ pounds pasta
  • Freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese at the table


  1. Put the oil, butter and chopped onion in the pot and turn the heat on to medium. Cook and stir the onion until it has become translucent, then add the chopped celery and carrot. Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring vegetables to coat them well.
  2. Add ground beef, a large pinch of salt and a few grindings of pepper. Crumble the meat with a fork, stir well and cook until the beef has lost its raw, red color.
  3. Add milk and let it simmer gently, stirring frequently, until it has bubbled away completely. Add a tiny grating -- about 1/8 teaspoon -- of nutmeg, and stir.
  4. Add the wine, let it simmer until it has evaporated, then add the tomatoes and stir thoroughly to coat all ingredients well. When the tomatoes begin to bubble, turn the heat down so that the sauce cooks at the laziest of simmers, with just an intermittent bubble breaking through to the surface.
  5. Cook, uncovered, for 3 hours or more, stirring from time to time. While the sauce is cooking, you are likely to find that it begins to dry out and the fat separates from the meat. To keep it from sticking, add 1/2 cup of water whenever necessary. At the end, however, no water at all must be left and the fat must separate from the sauce. Taste and correct for salt.
  6. Toss with cooked drained pasta, adding the tablespoon of butter, and serve with freshly grated Parmesan on the side


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