Well it is getting to be that time of year. We want comfort food, aromas in the kitchen and a meal that will fill us up and make us cozy and warm.
What could be better than to start a Ragu to simmer for hours and then pour over pasta or plate under some grilled protien and enjoy.
A simple Ragu
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 to 6 garlic cloves
1 red onion, chopped fine
1 carrot, chopped fine
2 celery sticks, chopped fine with tops
1 can tomato paste
1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground pork
Note: For a richer, more flavorful Ragu, you can add one pound ground veal and some ground pancetta, about 1 cup. If you add more meat increase the onion, carrot and celery too.
2 teaspoons salt ( I always use Kosher salt. It is not as harsh and increases the flavors.
a few grinds of pepper
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 cup white wine
3 cups basic chicken stock
3/4 cups whole milk
Take the olive oil and the garlic and puree them together. Then put this into a nice size heavy pot and add the onion, carrot and celery (this is called a Soffritto — a combination of onion, celery and carrot. This is the base of many beginings to sauces, Ragu, stews, etc.) Make sure the veggies have been diced up to a nice small size. Cook this up for a good five minutes till the onion is clear in color. Move the veggies to the outside of the pan creating a circle with an opening in the middle to add the tomato paste. Cook the paste for a good minute or so and carmelize slightly and then incorporate it into the veggies and stir all together. Now add the meat and season it with the salt, pepper, nutmeg and then let it cook. This is when the meat will release its juices and you want it to get cooked down and kind of dry. This will take a good 10 minutes. At this point make sure to really take your wooden spatula and chop into the meat and break it up good. Get it to a really fine texture. This will give your Ragu a nice apprearance when served over pasta or plated under a protein. After it has cooked down, add the wine and turn the heat up a bit to medium high for a good 5 to 10 minutes, until the wine has evaporated. Now add the chicken stock, reduce the heat and simmer for a good two hours. Make sure you stir it occationally, checking to make sure it has not stuck to the bottom. After your two hours you will add the milk and cook it down one last time for a good 35 to 45 minutes.
Note: The white wine and milk will make it flavorful and not quite as rich as a red wine sauce, but still extremely flavorful and yummy!
The red wine is wonderful too but this is a little different and is a new twist on making Ragu to enjoy.
When adding the veal and the Pancetta, add the Pancetta to the olive oil and garlic mix in a food processor or blender and cook it in the begining. Then add the veal with the beef and pork.
I will use this Ragu over pasta but I will also use it under a good piece of grilled chicken and top with sauteed zucchini or spinach. Or I will use it under some grilled sausage that I will slice up at an angle. I put it over the heated Ragu and even add pasta if I feel like it. Sometimes I will have the sausage with just some grilled onions and peppers and a nice grated cheese like Pecorino with a salad for a great meal.
Shelly Guantone was raised in the Oakland Hills and lives in Lodi with her husband, Nick Guantone. They have three children and three grandchildren. She and her husband own and operate Guantonio’s Mobile Wood Fired Oven.