In this first of recipes from some of my favorite cookbooks, I look at the terrific meat sauce called Ragù, which, as Jeff Smith exhorts, “is not to be confused with the canned product offered on the American market.”
Smith, Jeff. “Ragù.” The Frugal Gourmet Cooks Italian. New York: William Morrow and Co., 1993. 144-45.
I think what’s important about this recipe is not so much the ingredients, but the cooking method. Too many American cooks take the attitude with ground meat that as soon as it’s grey, it’s done and ready to eat. This meat sauce shows how a longer, slow cooking can tenderize ground meat as much as it does larger pieces. Then once you understand that principle, think of all the ways you can translate this recipe into others.
Ragù from The Frugal Gourmet
Let’s try just posting the image from the cookbook instead of me typing it out and see how that looks in different media. I’ll add my own comments about the recipe.
- You can see that I have penciled in amounts for a half recipe
- The recipe is great exactly as is, but I have varied it in a number of ways in the past:
- I only use the celery if I can dice it finely enough to not be detected by my husband, who has a celery bias.
- I have used pancetta, but more often bacon, which I cook a little longer than indicated here.
- The combination of veal and pork almost never occurs in my kitchen, but you can substitute a variety of different grades and fat levels of meat. I have made Ragù with all venison or combined with either pork or 80% lean beef. I have used meatloaf mix. Yesterday, I used 80% lean beef with 95% lean beef. Whatever combination you use, make sure to skim off the fat at the end before adding the butter, cream, and cheese.
- Do not leave out the butter, cream, and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese—I never skimp on any of those.
- I have used the white wine, but we are not wine drinkers and never have it around, so I generally just increase the chicken stock.
This is really a simple recipe, as long as you can be around during the simmering or at least when it’s done. I think it would be good on polenta if you are not in the mood for pasta.