A meat ragu is the starting point for a lot of Italian-inspired dishes that are just right for the period of colder weather that we are now entering. Many of those dishes are my idea of perfect comfort food. So, here is how I like to make a good basic ragu. First, the ingredients.
250g beef mince
250g pork mince
50g bacon lardons
1 large carrot, diced
1 finely chopped onion
1 chopped stick of celery
1 handful of chopped parsley
half a teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg
1 carton of tomato passata
First, you need a soffrito, made from the carrot, celery and onion.
Then, you fry the lardons in the olive oil, until they start to colour and the fat begins to run. Then you add in the soffrito vegetables;
Fry these until they are softened and then add the meat. I like to use a mixture of minced beef and minced pork, but you can leave the pork out if you prefer;
You don’t want to cook this completely, or get it too browned, but you do want it to lose the pinkness. When it is at that point, you can add the salt, pepper, nutmeg and chopped parsley. Then, add the passata and about the same volume of water;
Stir, bring up to a simmer, cover and leave to cook for at least an hour. Check to see that it hasn’t dried out. If it is beginning to get too thick, add some more hot water. After about an hour and a half, stir in 250ml of milk and continue to simmer until the sauce is nicely reduced and thickened. at this point, it is done;
This ragu is perfect for lasagne, which is what I used it for this time, but it is also great just served with pasta, or with rice or a jacket potato. If you don’t want the carbs, you could substitute slices of fried aubergine or courgette for the pasta sheets or even just top it with some béchamel sauce. It also makes a fantastic filling for crêpes or crespelle.
This also freezes well, so if you have a large enough casserole, you can make a much larger quantity and freeze it for use later on.