Ragu … or something like it!
February 2, 2011 in Uncategorized
I love Marcella Hazan … to me she is the doyenne of Italian cookery. I’ll admit it’s very 1980′s … but classic Italian cookery really has stood the test of time. The recipes are so simple that there isn’t much that needs to be changed. My parents have two of her books and although I’ve searched for new copies since … they seem to be out of print or not stocked. If you find a copy – hang on to it!
One of my favourite pasta dishes is Bolognese (Bolognaise) – but to be precise … a Ragu sauce. I first ate what I’d call a proper Ragu in Florence in 2008. It blew my mind. It was savoury, silky, soft – a completely new taste sensation!
Of course Marcella has a recipe for this and if you follow the instructions to the letter you will also end up with a glorious ragu sauce. I’ve made it on several occasions – it’s every bit as delicious – but somehow it’s even better when you’re actually sitting in a tiny tucked-away osteria in Italy!
Anyway – the thing about making a ragu is that there is nothing rapid about it (unless you follow Nigella’s recipe for “Rapid Ragu” – using lamb mince) – Marcella’s recipe calls for patience – and a cooking time of about 5 hours. Week-day cooking just doesn’t allow me that kind of time!
So I cheat. And here’s how …
You will need:
Left over chicken stock (1 cup) and marrow bones (from the Rich Roast chicken – you can freeze this. Alternatively just use some liquid chicken stock and marrow bones.)
Tin of chopped Italian tomatoes. (I’d say that you must buy Italian tomatoes as I find they’re generally sweeter and less acidic.)
Garlic (1 glove minced)
Mince – Beef (400g – 500g) (use lean or extra-lean because the marrow adds a lot of fat and I don’t want to be responsible for clogging up your arteries!)
1/3 cup of grated carrots (because it’s good to try and sneak in some veg!)
4 tablespoons of milk
Salt and pepper
Now – I’ll be the first to admit – this isn’t a ragu. And nothing beats the really thing – but I found that by adding the stock and marrow it gives the sauce extra depth and meaty richness (aka fat!)
In a casserole dish (with a lid) add the marrow, stock, garlic and tomatoes. Leave on a low heat to simmer away for about 30 minutes. (lid on)
Extract the marrow bones and ensure that all the marrow has been scrapped out and added to the sauce.
Now if you’re cooking a proper ragu, you’d be instructed to lightly fry off the mince and then add the milk. Apparently the milk keeps the meat tender and gives it a sweeter flavour – and somehow the sauce ends up being more creamy.
I don’t have time for that … so I just pop the mince and the carrots into the sauce and let it braise away over a very low heat. You may need to add some water to loosen the sauce if it’s too thick.
It’s just going to sit there on a low heat for another 30 minutes and simmer away (lid off).
Once it’s bubbled away for half and hour and some of the liquid has evaporated off add the milk. Season. Serve with your favourite pasta and some parmigiano!
x sim x
PS. You can read more about Marcella Hazan here:
or for Nigella’s Rapid Ragu