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. 

Because I want this to be saucy, I have increased the amount of tomatoes, originally 1 cup to a 400g can of DOP tomatoes, and decreased the amount of meat, from 1 pound to 1/2 pound. I get quarter-inch slices of pancetta cut from a roll; 3 of them usually weigh the 3 ounces I need. 

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 sometimes so do I. But this sauce is especially good on rigatoni because it snuggles inside the tubes.

And PLEASE find a source for Italian DOP tomatoes and Italian pasta that is cut with bronze die and slow dried, such as Pasta Setaro or Faella. The difference is mind-boggling. 

I often serve this on a plate with a vegetable instead of a salad.

I highly recommend cracking open a bottle of particularly delicious red wine to use here. It adds that depth of flavor I mentioned above to the sauce and is lovely to drink with this dinner.

A half bottle of a lovely Amarone

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, coarsely 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 beef (You can, of course, use ground pork.)
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 - a little
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 to 1/2 cup heavy cream (Use a light hand; you don't want it creamy.)
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 to make sure 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.

I usually serve this over rigatoni (but sometimes I use spaghetti) with grated Parmesan. You can use whatever pasta shape you like; no one will arrest you.

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