Yesterday, J was having a bad day. We met for lunch and he seemed really down so I offered to make dinner and asked what he was craving. Something meaty, he said. Well, his favorite has always been my bolognese. However, since it was a weeknight I couldn’t make a real bolognese sauce, I didn’t have hours. So instead I threw together this ragu which is basically a fake bolgonese. I say fake because it only stewed for an hour and a bit after I got it all together. That means I started cooking at 6, stopped fussing around 6:30 and we ate at 8.
The main component of any ragu is the meat. I was lucky enough to find fresh ground pork and lamb at the grocery store tonight and picked up some beef stew meat to round out the trio. In total the meat was about 1 kilogram worth but you could easily change up the ratios or add and subtract. Try some Italian sausage, veal or even ground chicken or turkey.
I chose rosemary to be the featured herb here because I think the strong flavour of rosemary has the ability to really stand up to the potency of the meat, plus lamb and rosemary are a classic combination. I even had fresh basil in the house, but really wanted to use rosemary. I didn’t have any fresh rosemary but used dried instead. If you do have fresh rosemary, chop up a bit and use it as garnish rather then the parsley. My parents have a mailbox-sized rosemary bush at their cabin and whenever I go there I steal a few branches. An easy trick on how to dry it is simply to wrap it in brown paper bags and stick it in your pantry – works like a charm.
Rosemary Ragu(serves 6)
1. Roughly chop onion, celery and carrot and then process in a Cuisinart until uniformly shredded. In a large Dutch oven heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-low heat. Saute onion, celery and carrot for 8 minutes, stirring to avoid burning. It’s fine if it browns. Add garlic and sauté another minute.
2. Push vegetables to the outside of the pan, turn up to medium heat and add the other 2 tablespoons of oil. When hot add the meat and salt and pepper, stir to cook evenly. Add rosemary and chile peppers. When almost no pink left add the white wine.
3. When 2/3 of the wine has evaporated add the tomatoes. When heated through and bubbling add the tomato paste and stir to incorporate.
4. Adjust the heat so that it is at the lightest of a simmer – an occasional bubble only. Cook for at least an hour stirring occasionally. There should be enough liquid. If it starts to dry out add a bit of water or chicken stock.
5. Remove from heat and allow to cool until appropriate to run through a blender or food processor. Just give a few pulses – you want it uniform but still to have texture. Return to heat.
6. To serve spoon over fresh pasta and garnish with the cheese and parsley.