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Thread: Ragu

  1. #1
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    Ragu

    Trigaaar asked (in another thread) for my recipee for ragu. I kinda hesitate to post it here because I'm not a pro chef and there are lots of pro chefs here and even a few Italian pro chefs who will undoubtedly know much more about this than me. I'll take this as an opportunity to learn from you guys.

    Anyway, here is my recipee. It's my modification of one I found in a Marcella Hazan cookbook. Basically I just made it bigger and increased the proportion of vegetables. Let me know how close I am to authentic or if you have any suggestions for improving it. Or feel free to post your own. I do enjoy making it when I have the time because there's lots of knifework in the soffrito. The different ingredients in the soffrito also allow comparison between knives for various aspects of cutting ability (thinness behind edge, food release, rock chopping, etc...)

    To make this quantity, you need a big stockpot.

    INGREDIENTS :
    Olive oil.
    3 large onions, finely diced (2-3 mm dice works well for all soffrito ingredients).
    1 kg carrots, finely diced.
    Other finely diced veggies can be added to the soffrito (I have used zucchini, yellow button squash and eggplant with success).
    1.5 kg high fat minced beef (you can substitute up to about 500g of this with minced pork).
    Salt.
    About 500 ml full fat milk.
    Quarter to half a nutmeg, crushed or grated.
    About 500 ml white wine (FWIW, I never cook with wine I wouldn't drink).
    2kg fresh or canned tomatoes. Fresh is best if they are in season. Especially if you grew them.


    METHOD:
    This dish needs frequent stirring.
    Sweat the onion over low heat in olive oil for 2-3 mins.
    Add carrots, celery and remaining soffrito ingredients and cook on medium for a few minutes.
    Add the meat and seperate the grains with a fork. Add the salt and cook until the meat has lost its red raw colour.
    Add the milk and simmer on low heat until excess liquid has evaporated (maybe half an hour), stirring frequently.
    Add the nutmeg.
    Add the wine. Cook until excess liquid has evaporated. I do this on medium heat but I thik that low heat (and longer time) is more authentic. Continue frequent stirring.
    Add tomatoes. Cook on low heat until excess liquid has evaporated. Continue frequent stirring. I do this on medium heat if I'm in a hurry. Marcella Hazan's recipee actually says to cook for at least 4 hours on low, adding a little water when it gets dry. This certainly gives a very rich, complex ragu but the quicker version is still pretty nice.

    I usually serve with penne because my kids can get it on their fork easily. I think taglitelle may be more authentic. Apparently in Bologna, it is rarely or never served with spaghetti (despite its English language monniker). I also make lasagne with it (sometimes substituting eggplant slices fot lasagne sheets). All of these freeze well and make a quick and easy weekday meal when reheated which is very popular with the kids and contains a lot more veggies than they realise.

    Before I was a knife nut, I used a food processor (hangs head in shame). Texture and flavour are much much much better when the sofritto is cut by hand.

    How do you make ragu?

    You may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful knife
    You may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?

  2. #2
    Senior Member Badgertooth's Avatar
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    Olive oil
    Onion
    Carrot
    Celery
    Garlic
    Tomato paste
    Pancetta
    Anchovy fillets
    Beef mince
    Milk
    Passata
    White wine
    Tomato sauce
    Salt & pepper
    Thyme

    Render pancetta in an enamelled cast iron pot and remove
    I push the mince further and really brown it in the pancetta fat. Remove mince from the pan and cook the the soffrito ingredients and anchovy fillets with thyme and garlic until soft. Add and stir through tomato paste till it catches. Reincorporate meat and slowly add milk and reduce. Add white wine, cook until alcohol heat has burned off. Add passata & tablespoon of ketchup or sugar if it need balancing. Place lid on cast iron and put in 140c oven for 3 hours. Check liquid levels at each hour and top up with milk.

    Again, some Italians are probably mortified, but I love it and that's how my dad made it, and hopefully it colours the same memories for my kids


  3. #3
    Senior Member TheCaptain's Avatar
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    Both of you guys....what time is dinner? 😛

    Those both sound amazing!
    Oh wait, you mean we can customize our signatures?

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheCaptain View Post
    Both of you guys....what time is dinner? 😛

    Those both sound amazing!
    Thanks skipper. Otto's one sounds prettty good too doesn't it?

    The beauty of having ragu in the freezer is that dinner time is.... in 10 minutes
    You may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful knife
    You may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nemo View Post
    Trigaaar asked (in another thread) for my recipee for ragu.
    Thank you Nemo! Much appreciated, I will make it.
    I kinda hesitate to post it here because I'm not a pro chef and there are lots of pro chefs here and even a few Italian pro chefs who will undoubtedly know much more about this than me.
    That's a really interesting point. Even within the Pro chef's some will be better than others (some will dedicate their lives to cooking, others will just have it as a job they enjoy), so do we want a forum where only the top chefs dare to post tips etc? No. Anything someone likes will do, and like you say, you might even get the odd tip that you use to improve your meals further.

    I have a couple of questions, but first let me say that I'm not a good cook (at all). My wife cooks most of the time, but she's bored of it and I'd like to do more of the cooking, so I'm wanting to learn.

    1.5 kg high fat minced beef
    I'm naturally fat averse. I understand that fat within a steak helps make it moist and helps the flavour. Even lean mince is reasonably fatty. May I ask why you go for high fat mince, does it really taste much better?

    Add carrots, celery
    Celery wasn't on your list of ingredients, do you use much, and since I don't like it, anything you'd recommend in its place?

    Since I'm not a good cook, I need to get better at seasoning - how much salt do you tend to use for this recipe?
    Before I was a knife nut, I used a food processor (hangs head in shame).
    Shakes head.

    Thank you

  6. #6
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    Only one way to become a better cook.... Roll up your sleves and get cutting.

    I say high fat mince because the recipee i was following specified it. In Australia, you can only usually get lean mince these days so I usually do make it with lean mince (I need to order high fat mince in advance) but probably use a little more olive oil in that situation. I guess you could try making a lite version and see if it suits you. I suspect that the fat content is important for the flavour but I'm not sure.

    Sorry about the celery- one bunch. You can't really taste it in the finished product. If you really don't like it, use any moderately aromatic vegetable. Over summer, I had a zucchini tsunami, so I used a lot of zucchini instead on at least one occasion and it worked fine. Finely diced zucchini or eggplant will test your knife's food release . I actually named my Mizuno "zucchini slayer" in recognition of it's food release (my Tansu is even better though).

    Salt is kinda to taste I guess. I suppose I use around 30-40 grinds for this recipee. I recently bought a lasagne from my butcher (they have an Italian chef who makes some pretty nice stuff) which was VERY salty in comparison. Horses for courses I guess. You can add more at the end, but it probably has a slightly different affect after the meat is cooked.

    The recipee that I adapted this from uses 500g of mince and smaller amounts of veg, so you could scale the ingredients down to make a smaller batch. You will still need almost (maybe 300-400 ml) as much milk and wine, though. I find that when scaling recipees up or down, the liquid ingredients often need to be scaled to a much lesser extent, because the cooking time is often dependent on the amount of liquid.
    You may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful knife
    You may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?

  7. #7
    Senior Member Mucho Bocho's Avatar
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    Good one Badgie-Boy! Now top of my list for recipes to try. Well thought out simple clear directions.

    Do you then cool it complete, remove the fat then reheat or does the fat emulsify into the sauce with the milk?

    Passata, I had to look that one up.


    Quote Originally Posted by Badgertooth View Post
    Olive oil
    Onion
    Carrot
    Celery
    Garlic
    Tomato paste
    Pancetta
    Anchovy fillets
    Beef mince
    Milk
    Passata
    White wine
    Tomato sauce
    Salt & pepper
    Thyme

    Render pancetta in an enamelled cast iron pot and remove
    I push the mince further and really brown it in the pancetta fat. Remove mince from the pan and cook the the soffrito ingredients and anchovy fillets with thyme and garlic until soft. Add and stir through tomato paste till it catches. Reincorporate meat and slowly add milk and reduce. Add white wine, cook until alcohol heat has burned off. Add passata & tablespoon of ketchup or sugar if it need balancing. Place lid on cast iron and put in 140c oven for 3 hours. Check liquid levels at each hour and top up with milk.

    Again, some Italians are probably mortified, but I love it and that's how my dad made it, and hopefully it colours the same memories for my kids
    One thing you can give and still keep...is your word.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nemo View Post
    The recipee that I adapted this from uses 500g of mince and smaller amounts of veg, so you could scale the ingredients down to make a smaller batch.
    Yeah I'd like to try a small amount first, as close to your recipe as possible. Then depending how we like that, maybe trying so other ideas here before doing large batches.

    You will still need almost (maybe 300-400 ml) as much milk and wine, though. I find that when scaling recipees up or down, the liquid ingredients often need to be scaled to a much lesser extent, because the cooking time is often dependent on the amount of liquid.
    Oh, I'd have had no idea, thanks.

    Do you not use any Italian herbs?


    Oh, we're missing some important information:
    What knife are you going to use? It's all veg, so are you going to use a cleaver, nakiri, or are you a strict gyuto guy?

  9. #9
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    loving the milk and anchovie adds..nice.

    i have used chopped up chicken liver in mine. just a few lobs..it is untastable, but adds something.

  10. #10

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    The big thing as badgertooth points out is getting getting a good fond in the pot from the browning (maillard reaction if you want to get scientific). Brown = flavour. Bones also = flavour so when I do mine I always use beef neck and/or beef ribs where the meat will fall off the bones and you can just pick them out clean post cooking. Of course you don't need to use beef, boar is amazing if available and the best ragu I may have ever had was made with lamb neck.

    The sugar in the milk also browns which is why it adds so much flavour.


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