Saturday, May 21st, 2011

Hopefully anyone reading this will already know that ragu is nothing that comes in a jar from the supermarket. It takes a lot of balls as well as cynicism to name that pathetic concoction after one of the most delicious sauces from Italy. The home of ragu is Emilia Romagna and perhaps the real center of the universe is Bologna. Once you’ve tasted the real things it’s hard to imagine anyone going near those canned sauces in the supermarket aisle. So is this really Cucina Pigra? (lazy cooking)  Well, yes and no. The “yes” part of that is that it freezes magnificently and so you might as well make a big pot and freeze it in container sizes suitable for your household – which in my case is one person at the moment. Actually what I freeze will feed me twice since the leftover from defrosting will keep in the fridge for several days ready for a quick meal. The “no” part is that it takes a while in preparation. The active part of the preparation doesn’t take too long but then you cook the stuff for 3 or 4 hours but don’t need to pay much attention to it during that time. I used the recipe from, who else?, Marcella Hazan. It’s from her first cookbook “The Classic Italian Cookbook”. There are many others around but this one is simpler and about as good as I can imagine.

So here is the ingredient list:

2 tbs chopped yellow onion

3 tbs olive oil

3 tbs butter

2 tbs chopped celery

2 tbs chopped carrot

3/4 lb lean ground beef

1 cup dry white wine

1/2 cup milk

1/8 tsp nutmeg

2 cups canned chopped tomatoes with their juice.

1 tsp salt

I usually make at least a double recipe and have done triple. You just need an deep pan of appropriate size and some contains to freeze it unless you plan to feed a family reunion.

Cook the onion in the hot oil and butter. You don’t want to brown them, just cook until translucent. Next add the celery and carrots and cook gently for a couple of minutes. Add the ground beef, breaking it up as you put it in the pot. I just use my hands because I’m not too fastidious and don’t mind cleaning my fingernails afterward. Add the salt and start stirring it all together. Do not brown the meat. You do need to stick around and use a wooden spoon or implement of your choice to keep stirring and breaking up the meat just until the redness is gone. Add the wine and turn up the heat a bit and cook with occasional stirring until the wine has evaporated. Turn down the hear and add the milk. Cook it until the milk has evaporated. Now add the tomatoes and stir it all up. When the tomatoes start to bubble turn down the heat to the point that it just barely simmers. Cook it uncovered for 3 1/2 to 4 hours. Taste and add salt if needed. You’re done.

This is really meant to be served over fresh pasta, pappardelle preferred. I am bless with a place that sells fresh pasta by the sheet. I just buy a sheet per person, roll it up and cut it to inch wide noodles with a knife. There is some pappardelle that is almost as good as fresh made by De Cecco that’s a good substitute. Of course you CAN make your own but I’m usually to, well, pigro (lazy) for that. But don’t worry, it’s also good with dried pasta – I prefer farfalle in that case. This is a sauce that clings well to the flat surfaces of that pasta shape. Serve with grated parmigiano and you’ll understand why the cooking of Emilia Romagna is considered to be the best in Italy.

A couple of added notes: don’t worry if you might have added the milk before the wine. It still comes out great. I probably don’t have to tell you how I know this. I also used some 1/2 and 1/2 instead of milk since I had some in the fridge that was otherwise going to go to waste and I never have whole milk around. Now I have a bunch of ragu ready to roll with only a little defrosting and a short stint in the microwave. Life is good.


2 Responses to “Ragu”

  1. Dana Says:

    Excellent Joe! I just shared this on FB. It meets all the criteria-fast, easy, and no exotic, hard to find ingredients.

    I did change out the ground beef with ground turkey, and I used all oil, no butter (both a consequence of my determination to lose weight). It was still great.

    Thanks for the recipe!


  2. Joe Says:


    Well, obviously the recipe is pretty flexible ;^). I’m glad that you enjoyed it. I have some others in the Cucina Pigra series queue.


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