[photo by I Heart Woo]
After taking a saucemaking class in 2006, I promptly forgot about bechamels and ragus for about, oh, four years. I even got into the habitual purchase of premade sauces, forgetting why anyone would ever want to make one from scratch. But this week, I found myself with a serious craving for a meat-based dish. I didn't want a steak or meat on the bone. I wanted comfort food, and lots of it. My stomach grumbled, "Meat! Pasta!"
After dabbling with different recipes here and there, I ended up with the bolognese recipe below. [Bolognese just being Italian for a meat-based ragu, or sauce.] These are just my proportions-you don't have to follow the ingredients list exactly. The list looks long, but this is an easy recipe. I used what I had on hand and forgot certain ingredients usually found in a traditional ragu, like celery and, um, an entire can of tomatoes. But it still tasted amazing.
This stuff is in a different league than Prego. I promise!
2 small carrots, chopped
2-3 yellow onions
1/2 lb ground beef
1/4 lb ground pork
6 oz pancetta, chopped
1-3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 28-oz cans whole tomatoes, with their juice
1/2 cup cream or whole milk
1-2 cups dry red wine
5 sprigs fresh thyme
2 tbsp. chopped parsley
6 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. pepper
Grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
- VEGETABLES & AROMATICS | Heat about 1/4 cup olive oil over medium high heat in a large heavy-bottomed pan. Add your onions, garlic, and carrot. Stir. Cook for 8-10 minutes.
- MEAT | Turn up the heat (to medium high to high, depending on how well your pan conducts heat). Add your pancetta, pork, and beef. Work quickly to break up the meat with your wooden utensil as the meat browns. Let the meat brown for 8-10 minutes.
- LIQUIDS | This is where you wing it. I added about a cup of Sangiovese and scraped off the stuck bits from the bottom of the pan. After a few minutes, I added about a cup of chicken stock, a half cup of cream or whole milk. Add your thyme (on the stem, you can pick them out later). Turn the heat down to a simmer and let it simmer uncovered for about an hour. The sauce will reduce and thicken. The color will change into a magnificent deep red. Add more stock or wine if necessary. Toward the end, add your parsley.
- EAT | Ladle the ragu over a bed of fettucine (yeah, I know I show fusilli above), top with some cheese, and serve.
- Like I said, this recipe can be tweaked. I didn't have yellow onions, so I used small sweet onions. I couldn't find veal as some recipes called for, so I just upped the amount of ground beef. I used some red wine instead of just stock. I didn't have cream or whole milk but did have half and half. Just use the best quality ingredients you have, especially the meat.
- I love salt, but even I found that a light sprinkling was more than necessary. The pancetta is already somewhat salty.