Friday, February 2, 2024

Nigel Slater's Really Good Ragu

Adapted from The Kitchen Diaries by Nigel Slater and FOOD52

I have been making Marcella Hazan's iconic Bolognese sauce for years, and it is, I believe, authentic. I have even used it to stuff inside my grandmother's crespelle, turning it into canneloni. But as delicious as it is, it is not very saucy, and sometimes something saucy with an indescribable depth of flavor is exactly what I'm looking for. 

I have been led to believe no self-respecting Italian would even think about serving Bolognese sauce over spaghetti. But English people do, Nigel Slater does, and now so do I. I just call it Ragu instead of Bolognese. (If you haven't discovered Nigel Slater yet, I think Appetite would be a good place to start.

Nigel Slater's Ragu
Adapted from The Kitchen Diaries by Nigel Slater and FOOD52

4 tablespoons butter
About 3 ounces pancetta, cubed
1 small to medium onion, chopped
2 plump cloves garlic, chopped,
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
2 stalks celery, peeled and chopped
4 ounces cremini mushrooms, chopped the same size as the onions, carrot, and celery 
1 bay leaf (I use Morton & Bassett)
1/2 pound ground pork or beef (I use pork because I find it more flavorful)
1 400g can of whole peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand
1/4 cup red wine (good enough that you will drink it with dinner)
3/4 cup stock (I use Better Than Bouillon Vegetable Base to make it)
Freshly grated nutmeg
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 to 1/2 cup heavy cream (Use a light hand.)
Freshly grated Parmesan, to taste

Melt the butter then cook the pancetta without letting it color but rendering some of the fat - 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the onion and garlic; then the carrot and the celery; then the mushrooms. Add the bay leaf. Cook over medium heat, stirring often.

Turn up the heat a little and add the meat, breaking it up. Cook for about 3 minutes without stirring so the meat starts to brown. Stir again. Add the tomatoes, red wine, stock, a grating of nutmeg, and a little salt and pepper. 

Turn the heat down till the sauce is gently moving. Partially cover the pan. Let it cook for about an hour, stirring occasionally, checking the liquid so it does not dry out.

Pour in the heavy cream slowly and with a light hand. Stir. Let it cook a little longer - for 10 to 15 minutes.

Taste for seasoning.

Serve over spaghetti with grated Parmesan.

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