Thursday, January 03, 2008

Ragu (Bolognese Sauce)

Reading this food blog inspired me to make ragu following my own recipe. I started originally with a recipe from Anna Del Conte’s book Gastronomy of Italy. Being 85 years old she does not have a website as far as I can tell but Amazon will happily sell anyone who’s interested a copy. This was for a long time my favorite Italian cookbook it is however very traditional and once you have mastered the basics not very inspiring. The ragu recipe however, is like all the traditional recipes in her book, absolutely fabulous.
I’m afraid that as with much of my cooking Mrs. Del Conte would not necessarily endorse the recipe as it has evolved in my hands. In any case the basic principle here, as with any ragu, is reduction of liquids and concentration of taste. I use veal as the bulk of the meat as it is very light but I find that its taste is not strong enough so I add about 50% beef mince to the veal. If veal is not available this recipe works just as well with only beef but obviously it will be a bit different and heavier.
(When I make ragu I make enough to freeze at least three portions use later. If you used this recipe in one go this would be enough for 10 servings as Primi)
  1. 500 grams veal mince (try to get fairly rough mince as you do not want the meat to fall apart in the cooking);
  2. 250 grams beef mince (best quality in this case is not lean meat but something that has at least 15% fat content);
  3. 100 grams chicken liver, minced really fine. You can do this with a knife;
  4. 100 – 150 grams pork belly with the skin removed and cut up fine. If you can’t get pork belly use streaky bacon. Although the pork belly’s primary function is as provider of fat (and taste) I do not like to mince it like the other meats rather I cut it up as fine as I can with a sharp knife. This yields a little bit of texture in the sauce that is not at all traditional but I find very satisfying;
  5. 1 large red onion cut fine;
  6. 4 roughly cut garlic cloves;
  7. 200 ml red vine;
  8. 1 litre good quality chicken stock;
  9. 150 grams tomato paste;
  10. 1 tablespoon strong soy sauce;
  11. Two large carrots pealed and cut in half;
  12. A large celery stick cut in three (the idea is to discard both the carrot and the celery at the end);
  13. A bunch each of roughly chopped Basil and Parsley;
  14. Rind of Parmesan cheese. Letting the rind of Parmesan cheese simmer with the ragu yields a very nice creamy consistency in the sauce. I keep all the rinds from the parmesan I use in my freezer so that I can use it in my ragu. As I do not make ragu very often I usually have about three sizeable rinds that I let simmer for the whole coking time before discarding them at the end. If you do not have parmesan rinds you will need to use either full cream milk or cream to thicken the sauce at the very last moment;
  15. Salt and pepper to taste.
Fry the pork in a very hot heavy bottomed stewing pan until a bit crisp, lower heat and add the onion and garlic and sweat it a bit. When the onion in soft add the chicken liver and fry until done (it will brown). Raise the heat and add the veal and beef mince and brown the meat.
Add red vine and boil off most of the alcohol. Meanwhile dissolve the tomato past in the stock and add to the pan along with the soy sauce and 80% of the herbs. Add the vegetables and Parmesan rind and season to taste. Bring to boil then lower the heat to a simmer and let the sauce simmer covered for about 3 – 3 ½ hours. At the end you should have a meat sauce that is not liquid but leaves “legs” on a metal spoon if you stir the sauce. If you reduce the sauce too much keep back some of the pasta boiling liquid to add to the sauce at the last moment.
Check regularly if the sauce has the desired taste and try to adjust the seasoning as you go along. You do not want to be adding large quantities of salt or pepper at the very end as that somewhat negates the effort in simmering the sauce for 3 hours.
If you are using milk or cream add it at least 10 minutes before the end to allow it to reduce. Serve with either penne or spaghetti, with a generous shaving of parmesan and a sprinkling of the remaining herbs.


Anonymous said...

I find that adding milk and/or reduced cream about half way through rather than the last 10 minutes creates a yummy consistency. I do add a tad of butter at very end though.

hard pasta penne and spaghetti great with this but I also think egg noodles ie tagliatelle is key

Anonymous said...

You've gone too far.

Anonymous said...

The best bolognese sauce is simply pork mince, beef mince fried in plenty of olive oil, butter, onions and garlic then add pulped tomatoes, some puree, white wine and seasoning. Thats it.

thoroddsson said...

Sure it is unless you prefer my recipe or someone else's. I know mine is pretty far from the original by now but none of the elements (other than the soy!) are very unfamiliar and would be found in many fine Bolognese recipes.

Anonymous said...

It does sound nice, I guess.

Anonymous said...

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