In net contrast to everything stated yesterday about sauce and Italians eating light meals, today we polished up a whole pan of glorious cannelloni al ragù. It was not a holiday, but we innkeepers must work throughout most of the occasions when others celebrate holidays. As a consequence we have to choose a grey, cold and boring winter day and make it “special” by cooking something worth of a Christmas party. In fact, in most Italian homes, a proper ragù is not a sauce for everyday as to make it well you need time and care.
In Italy, ragù is a term encompassing all sorts of meat based sauces, from Ragù alla Bolognese to Ragù alla Napoletana to the miriad of recipes used in virtually every home in the peninsula. Please don’t ask me about “gravy or sauce” we don’t know about that, we call it “sugo di carne” meaning meat sauce, or simply “ragù”. Also, we don’t cook it the whole day. Depending on the amount of sauce and heat power of your cooktop, 1 and 1/2 to 3 hours is perfectly adequate.
The quality of the ingredients is essential of course. I use a mixture of finely minced pork-neck and stew beef, may be a sausage, never chicken. Chicken and pasta is quite unsual in Italy.
My ragù is inspired by my mother Sicilian cooking so, in contrast with the Bolognese, it has relatively more tomato than meat. And because we are in Umbria, we like to drizzle a bit our fabulous olive oil on the plated pasta to enhance the flavor of the sauce. I always make a large pot of sauce and freeze it in batches, it provides a great almost instant dinner for weekdays.
- 5 400 g/14-ounce cans Italian plum tomatoes diced or crushed
- 300 gr./ 10 ounces ground pork and beef meat
- 1 onion, 1 carrot, 1 stick of celery all finely minced
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 clove
- 1/2 cup white wine
Soften the onion, clery and carrot in 3 tablespoon olive oil over low heat. Use a covered, shallow, heavy bottom pan. When translucent but not caramelized, increase the heat and add the minced meat stirring quickly until light brown. Deglaze with the wine.
Add the tomatoes with their juices, the bay leaf, the clove and cover . Cook over the lowest possible heat for at least 1 and ½ hours and up to three hours is desirable. Season with salt and black pepper.
Serve ragù with pasta like lasagne, cannelloni, ravioli, egg noodles of all sizes and also gnocchi and polenta. Note that the rich flavor and pliable structure of egg based pasta combines much better with ragù than spaghetti, penne and other tubular pasta.