Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Ragu, or Bolognese Sauce

The suggestion that the English cannot cook ragu is nonsense.

Minced beef (best) 6 parts.
Minced pork (belly of) 3 parts.
Chicken livers, and heart (cleaned, chopped) up to 4.
Rigatino (salt, unsmoked, belly of pork)  finely chopped, 1 part.
A battuto  (ingredients finely chopped using a mezzaluna) of 1 large onion, half a head of peeled garlic,  parsley, celery, carrot.
Peeled, seeded,  drained, chopped tomatoes, (1 bottle or jar).
Tomato paste. (2 dessert spoons).
Olive oil,  3 tablespoons.
1 glass of brodo  (don't ask, you should have some from your previous boiled meats).
A large glass of Chianti (and one for the cook).
Salt,  ground black pepper, grated nutmeg.
Cast iron saucepan with close-fitting lid.

Brown your rigatino  in the olive oil.  Cook in it your battuto, till softened and the onions are translucent.  Put your meat in the pan and make sure it begins to brown.  Add the wine and cook fiercely to cause the wine to evaporate. Then add the glass of brodo and make that evaporate.  Add your tomatoes, tomato paste, and  salt and black pepper.  Cover your pan closely. Simmer for ages, turning it every 20 minutes, adding brodo by the spoonful as necessary.  At no time should the sauce be very liquid.

(Mr HG swears by having the sauce sticking a little in the pan.  I suspect this is opportunistic justification for lack of attention).
Add the raw, chopped chicken insides twenty minutes before you need the ragu, which will have been cooking all morning, and stir in thoroughly until assimilated.  Add your grated nutmeg to taste.   

Serve with any fresh, flat pasta, preferably tagliatelle, made with eggs and durum flour (how to make the sfoglia is for another day).

Present in a heated bowl with generous quantities of fresh parmesan and encourage each diner to add more parmesan on their serving.  This is no dish for the faint-hearted, or for budget dining.  It should be followed with roast meats, poultry, game, or joint, sformati , roast potatoes, mixed salad, cheese and pears, cream cake such as la torta della Nonna, or a crostata, and a long rest.

Wines: red, local, reliable (ie well-tested).


Weekend Yachtsman said...

An excellent receipt; very mouth-watering on a dreary January morning.

Now for why it's thought the English can't cook it:

Pork belly - very hard to find
Chicken livers - fairly hard to find
Chicken heart - unobtainable
Rigatino - unobtainable
Chopped tomatoes - widely available but of inferior quality
Brodo - there won't be any
Wines (local) - there aren't any

So we substitute unsuitable or ghastly things that we do happen to have; result: nasty.

It's not that we can't, it's that we don't have the wherewithal.

Oh for a beakerful of the warm South!

hatfield girl said...

Yacht, we are as one in agreeing that typical dishes do not translate themselves to other worlds.

Baked beans in tomato sauce (fagiuoli all'uccelletto) is another unrecognisable transplant, this time Tuscan.

Take heart! There are English dishes to die for (literally in the case of steak and kidney pudding) quite beyond the local provisioners. There isn't even a word for suet.

Once, despairing of my capacity to explain, I took a diagram of the cut of beef I wanted to the (lady) butcher.

"Oh Pietro, come and look," she called to her husband who was taking animals apart with a chain saw in the rear room of the shop,
"The signora has brought a picture of a cow to show us." So I accepted what was on offer which included being thought rather odd ever since.