This recipe is inspired by my trip to Siena as a student in college. We went to this fabulous restaurant called La Torre where the chef just makes whatever he wants. I had his ragu and it was possibly the greatest dish I have ever had. The noodles soaked in the fresh meat sauce is divine. Tuscans use a variety of different meats in their ragu. I have had some that were more gamey using venison or even rabbit. Since I am not eating a rabbit, below is my less gamey (but still delicious) recipe. This is a fabulous recipe for those of you like me who are still learning and gaining more confidence in the kitchen. It is going to taste like you cooked it for hours (because it does take hours), but it only actively takes about 20 minutes of your time.
The essential ingredient to a ragu is a soffritto. A soffritto is an Italian version of a mirepoix. The fundamental difference between the two is the addition of parsley and sometimes pancetta and garlic. For the Ragu below is my recipe for a soffritto.
1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
1 Yellow Onion chopped
1 carrot chopped
2 celery sticks chopped
1 handful of flat-leaf parsley chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 cloves of garlic chopped
Heat the olive oil in a medium sauce pan over medium high heat. Add everything BESIDES the garlic until they begin to color and turn tender which will take roughly 5-7 minutes. When it looks like it is a minute or two away stir in the garlic. Once it is done take the pan off the heat and keep it to the side until we need it for our ragu.
Okay now that the soffritto is complete lets make our ragu.
3 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
1 lb of ground lean beef
1 lb of ground pork
1 sweet Italian sausage and 1 spicy sausage removed from its casings.
1 tsp of salt
1/2 tsp of pepper
2 tsp of chopped thyme
1 cup of red wine (I use Chianti)
1 cup of soffritto
2 tbsp of tomatoe paste
2 28 oz cans of whole tomatoes (I prefer San Marzano)
1 box of your favorite pasta (I prefer tagliatelle for this)
Pour the olive oil into a large dutch oven and warm over medium heat. Add the meats and cook until completely browned while breaking them up with a wooden spoon for about 10 minutes. Add the salt, pepper, wine and thyme and allow the meat to absorb most of the wine. Stir in the Soffritto, tomato paste and tomatoes.
Allow the sauce to boil and then lower the heat to a simmer. Keep the pot partially covered and cook for 3 hours while occasionally stirring. At the 3 hour mark boil some water, cook your pasta and combine it with the ragu and you have a fabulous dinner.
The ingredients and the recipe appear difficult, but if you take a close look at it you will see in only takes 20-30 minutes of active cooking and it is delicious.
Sous Chef Andrew