Tag Archives: pasta

Ragù: The Frugal Gourmet

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.”IMG_2098

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

  • Servings: 8-12? makes 3 quarts
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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.


Noodles and Roasted Vegetables

Not a casserole, but still a one-dish meal, it’s easy to roast or grill any of the variety of vegetables that are available in the summer and combine them with pasta, with or without meat for a terrific summer meal. Roasted vegetables have such a rich flavor that you don’t need a complicated list of ingredients for this meal to satisfy. I only used zucchini, carrots, mushrooms, and onions, added browned cubes of chicken, and a light chicken sauce to some nice Italian pasta. It was a great meal for last week’s company at the end of a busy day.

Noodles and Roasted Vegetables

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Pre-heat oven to 350°

  • 12-16 oz Wegmans Italian Classics Mafaldine, long curly pasta, cooked according to package directions
  • 1.5 lbs Wegmans Organic  boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut in chunks and browned in butter and oil
  • 2 small-medium zucchini, sliced lengthwise, then sliced in half-inch chunks
  • 3-4 carrots sliced in 1/4-1/2 inch rounds (were they called pennies in your house?)
  • 1/2 lb small cremini mushrooms, quartered
  • 1-2 small onions, roughly chopped
  • Olive oil and butter (see directions)
  • Salt and pepper (nouns here)
  • 2 teaspoons Better Than Bouillon® chicken base, dissolved in 2 cups boiling water
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch mixed with about 1/4 cup cold water

This is one of those meals that has to be orchestrated for everything to be put together when the pasta is done. Start with the vegetables. Place the cut vegetables in a 13″ x 9″ ovenproof dish, drizzle with olive oil, stirring to distribute. Salt and pepper (verbs here). Place uncovered in oven and roast until browned. This will take at least a half hour.

While the vegetables are roasting, cube the chicken breasts. In a large frying pan over medium-high heat, add about 3 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 tablespoons butter. The butter helps the browning and the oil helps keep the butter from burning. Add the chicken and brown on all sides. If you have too much chicken to brown without crowding in the pan, brown the chicken in batches. Set aside until the vegetables are done.

When the vegetables are about done, boil the water for the pasta. While the pasta is cooking, re-heat the pan with the chicken, add the bouillon mixture and bring to a boil. Stir in the cornstarch mixture, then add the roasted vegetables. A cornstarch-based sauce will thicken in a few minutes. Drain the noodles and place in a large pasta bowl. Pour the chicken-vegetable mixture over the pasta. Eat.