My Favourite Ragu Sauce
The only proper meal I remember my father cooking was spaghetti bolognese. Twice a year he would announce that he was making the dinner, and it was quite an event! By some apparent miracle, he would produce a steaming bowl of spaghetti topped with a rich and aromatic sauce filled with mysterious things like garlic and red wine, and other foreign wonders unknown to a schoolboy in 1980s provincial Wales.
I don't know where he learned to make it, and sadly he's no longer around to ask, but I guess that it was the one dish he learned to impress my mother during the heady Italian food craze of the sixties. I suppose that nostalgia has transformed what was essentially a garlic cloves, a pound of mince, a splash of wine and a tin of tomatoes into a culinary masterpiece. But the memory is etched on my senses, and I still find that ragu is the comfort food I return to again and again.
I've since learned that for all it's foreignness, 'spaghetti bolognese' is, in fact, a British contruct, and the true ragu of Bologna is usually served with fresh tagliatelle and contains very little tomato. The ragus I ate further south in Le Marche were often made with passata, and contained anything from wild boar to chicken giblets!
My recipe isn't entirely authentic, but it's in the spirit of a what a good ragu should be about. After four hours blipping away in the oven, it's thick, dark, unctious, and very tasty. In fact, it's almost as good as my dad's!
(Serves 8 - 10)
100g of smoked pancetta, diced
400g minced beef
400g minced pork
200g chicken livers, trimmed, rinsed and finely chopped
2 medium onions, finely chopped
3 medium carrots, finely chopped
3 celery stalks, stringy parts removed then finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 thyme sprigs, 2 rosemary sprigs and 2 bay leaves tied together
Small handful of dried porcini mushrooms
2 tablespoons of tomato purée
Half a bottle of red wine
1 bottle of passata (700g)
1 piece of parmesan rind (optional)
A pinch of dried chilli flakes
1 bunch of fresh basil
Pre-heat the oven to 150C.
Place a large, flameproof casserole on medium heat, and heat four tablespoons of olive oil. Fry the pancetta until golden, then turn the heat to low and add all of the chopped vegetables, herbs, chilli flakes and a good pinch of sea salt. Stir to coat in the oil, then place the lid on the casserole and fry slowly for fifteen minutes. Meanwhile, soak the porcini in 200ml of boiling water.
Tip the sweated pancetta, vegetables and herbs onto a plate, then wipe the casserole clean with kitchen paper and place it back on a high heat. In a little more olive oil, quickly brown the minced meat and chicken livers. Add the wine then let it to bubble and reduce for a few minutes, scaping up any meaty bits at the bottom of the casserole.
Turn the heat down and add the vegetables, herbs and pancetta back into the casserole along with the tomato purée, soaked porcini, most of their soaking liquid (leave behind the gritty dregs) and stir to mix everything together. Stir in the passata and parmesan rind (if using), bring to the boil, then place the lid on the casserole and transfer it to the preheated oven.
Cook for four hours, stirring occasionally. If the ragu is reducing too fast, add a little water or stock, and reduce the heat slightly. The finished ragu should be dark, concentrated and glossy.
When the ragu is ready, remove the herb bundle and parmesan rind (if using), rip up the basil and stir it in. Serve with fresh tagliatelle, rigatoni, or use as a filling for lasagne or canelloni.
Mmmmmmmmmm. Love the recipe, and love the family lore even more. I've a lasagne in the oven right now, made with yesterday's ragu. I'm sending you a virtual glass of wine as it cooks...
Looks good John lee.. I think I could enjoy eating this, although I would still be obligated to say it wasn't real sauce..
Too much tomato for a northern italian food raised boy like me to qualify as sugo .. And four cloves of garlic? My Nona would have run screaming .
by Mamma Carla
Hallo everybody very nice and rich recipe from John as always.The truth is that every family in Italy has its own recipe for "ragu' " and it also varies from region to region but they are all good! It depends on which season you are in,on the time you have at your disposal,on the Money you have and on your mood sometime but the essential thing is to respect a few rules: battuto (carrots,celery,onion),garlic,good olive oil and good disposition of mind! When you do things you have to love what you do and even the simplest of the recipe will come out GOLD!
Hi John, any of this left over?? I could go for some right now!
Great recipe and the story behind it!
Looking forward to more!
Made this last night and it was absolutely beautiful! Quite simply the most mouth wateringly fragrant and delicious Ragu I've ever had! I signed up to the blog just to tell you how much I enjoyed it haha. Thanks for the recipe