This happened years ago.
Now I know that when sauce starts to burn you turn off the heat and transfer the sauce as swiftly as you can, and whatever you do, you do not stir the pot. Now I also know not to entertain people I don't really like. That night when I smelled the burning meat i quickly stirred, in disbelief, and mixed the black burnt meat into the sauce rendering it completely unsalvageable. I also overcooked my pasta and broke two wine glasses.
I didn't give up on bolognese, though. I tried again and again and I'm not exactly sure at what point over the years this happened, but I can do it now. Here is the thing with repetition: while you repeat that dish, time passes, and as time passes you learn so many things. I now know how to tell good meat from bad, I prefer smaller onions, I know when meat has browned enough, and I know exactly who to share my food with. These days I don't try to stage romantic magazine dinners anymore, but I do make big bowls of pasta and pots of Bolognese that I eat with my favorite person and we soak up the extra sauce with chunks of bread and do the crossword at the dinner table. We even dip right into the pot sometimes. I don't know if you have a Bolognese recipe that you like, I hope you do and I hope it took you many years to get to it, but if you need a little help along the way, here is mine.
1 Pound ground beef (my butcher gives me what he calls lean but he winks when he says lean so It's probably medium)
2 smallish medium onions- chopped finely or grated
2 cloves garlic (minced)
1 can best tomatoes (pulverized)
1/3 c tomato paste
1/3 c red wine
1 c stock
dry basil and oregano
salt and pepper
Brown the meat in a few tablespoons of oil and season with salt, pepper, and herbs. Add onion and cook together until onion is translucent and everything is mixing up. Add tomato paste and cook for another few minutes. In go tomatoes with juice, garlic and wine.
Finally, add a cup of stock and one cup water and simmer covered for one hour. Taste and season as you go. Uncover and cook on low until you like the consistency. Serve to your favorite person, with your favorite pasta and grated parmigiana, and if it's terrible... try again.