Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Easy Ragu Sauce

As promised, I’m going to share the first recipe I tried from Restaurant Favorites. The actual recipe (Lamb Ragu) called for bone-in lamb, which we neither had at home nor desired to eat the night I made this meal. Instead, I used ground beef (chuck 85% lean) and substituted a few other spices and ingredients along the way. First I’ll share what I made and how, then at the end I will list out the recipe as it is in the book. Remember to serve this with a larger/thicker pasta like spaghetti, penne or rigatoni since it will be a very thick/heavy sauce.

2-3 carrots, cleaned and diced small
2-3 celery ribs, diced small
1 small onion, diced small
8-10 white or baby bella mushrooms, diced (optional)
~2 tbsp olive oil
~1 tbsp salt
~1 tbsp fresh crushed or bottled garlic
~1 lb ground beef (use 85% to 90% lean since you will not be able to drain)
2 tbsp tomato paste
~ 28 oz crushed or diced tomato (canned with no other ingredients)
½ tsp parsley flakes
Few sprigs fresh basil chopped or ~1 tbsp dried basil
Crushed Red Pepper to taste (optional)
~ ½ cup dry red wine (or whatever you may be drinking… I used a Shiraz blend I had open)
½ tsp sugar (optional)
Grated pecorino or parmesan cheese

In a medium to large, heavy bottom pan, warm the olive oil on medium heat. Add the carrots, celery and onions. Sautee for 5 to 7 minutes or until the ingredients start to brown just slightly. Add the mushrooms, if you like, at this point. Continue to cook for another 2 minutes then add the garlic and salt. Mix for a minute or so then add your ground beef which should have been rinsed and drained.

Cover and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring as necessary to avoid sticking. If the beef is too dry, you can add up to a ½ cup of water. Add the tomato paste and mix in well, then add the crushed tomato, parsley, red pepper and basil (if using dried basil) to the mix and cook to a boil (uncovered). Stir in the wine and simmer, stirring to reduce and scraping the bottom to pick up all the ingredients. Cook for about 2 to 3 minutes until the mix looks glossy or like a glaze. Cover and lower the heat, simmer for 30 to 40 minutes adding the fresh basil about half way through. Stir as needed during this time (every 10 min or so) and a few minutes before turning off the heat, you can add ½ tsp of sugar to offset the tartness of the sauce.

Note that alcohol evaporates from the wine when reducing, but if you still feel uncomfortable, you can use diluted grape or fruit vinegar (2/3 vinegar, 1/3 water ratio). Also, if the sauce seems too thick, add some water to deliver the perfect consistency for you (to your liking). Serve over pasta and sprinkle with grated cheese and some fresh basil if available.

What I substituted: beef in place of 1 ½ lbs lamb shoulder chop, red pepper instead of black pepper and spaghetti instead of orecchiette pasta. If you want to know how the bone-in meat was cooked into the dish, e-mail me and I will send you details.

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