Ragù

I have a cunning plan that will probably culminate in lasagne. So first, I’m going to need a pot of ragù.

This time, I used:

  • 300g beef or pork mince – this should not be the “premium” steak mince, but rather something cheaper and fattier – this will taste a lot nicer as it’s made from all the obscure, and in some cases, unspeakable, bits of the animal
  • 75g of diced pancetta (sweet cured belly bacon) leave the fat attached
  • four cloves of garlic, or more if the garlic is small; you know how much you like
  • two medium onions, and about the same amount of celery and carrots; I ended up with about 600g (uncooked weight)
  • four large (ish) portabella mushrooms
  • 800g tinned tomatoes
  • a small glass of red wine

You’ll need a large sauté pan, preferably with vertical sides, so the stuff doesn’t escape as you’re stirring.

  1. Get the pan warmed on a low heat, and put the pancetta in, no need for any cooking oil, and let it quietly sizzle away for about five minutes, during which time it will become medium brown, crunchy, and will have rendered up most, if not all of its fat.
  2. Scoop out the pancetta with a slotted spoon, and pop somewhere on the side, but not so close you’re tempted to nibble on it during the rest of the cooking.
  3. Add the mince to the pan, breaking it up with a spoon, and putting a pinch of salt, and a generous grind of pepper on. You can also sprinkle a quarter teaspoon of white or brown sugar over the mince at this point, which will help it caramelise. You’ll probably need to turn the heat up a whisker, as you’re cooking a much greater mass, but you still want a gentle sizzling, and again, get it brown, a little crunchy, and having given up its fat.
  4. Whilst that’s browning (you don’t need to stir constantly) peel and slice the garlic. Make a well in the middle of the mince, and pop the garlic in, moving it around with a wooden spoon until it’s gone translucent, and started to go a golden colour. Do not let it brown, as it will go bitter. Once that’s all done, rescue everything with the slotted spoon into a dish, and leaving the fat behind. By this point, you’ll have noticed a bit of a build up on the bottom of the pan, of brown stuff. Rejoice, for this is Very Tasty. This is what the French call the fond.
  5. Put the diced onion, carrots and celery into the pan, adding a little olive oil if necessary, and fry ’til the onion is translucent. You’ll notice that the juices from the veg deglaze the bottom of the pan, and the fond is incorporated into the veg. Mmmm.
  6. Add the wine and stir furiously, in case frying the veg builds up some goo.
  7. Add the tomatoes, the mince, pancetta, and about a teaspoon each of dried oregano and dried basil. (I will explain the Dried Herb Heresy another day.)
  8. Add the chopped up mushrooms.
  9. Bring to the boil, but don’t let it arrive there, and then reduce the heat so the surface is barely quivering, cover the pot, and then leave it like that for an hour.

Hints:

  • You can get vacuum packed bags of pre-diced sofritto – this is a fancy word for diced and fried onions, carrots and celery.
  • I also grated about a quarter of a nutmeg over it. Some people like mace and majoram.
  • Maybe you’ve found some fresh basil that isn’t bland hydroponic rubbish. In this case, shred it up and add it at the very end, i.e. about five minutes before the end of the simmer, or even after simmering, when you’ve switched the heat off. Fresh basil does not like being cooked.
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