As many of you know, my preference is for slow cooking and you can find my recipe for proper slow-cooked shredded meat ragu’ here. But if you are in a rush, here is a quick easy recipe for what is sometimes called a bolognese sauce or a minced meat ragu’. In the episode of Amore Al Dente below, I cook it in the order that is fastest for simplicity to keep the pace of the story, but below I’ve detailed the order I like to prepare it for maximum flavour. These measurements serve two allowing for generous meaty portions or four if you just want your pasta served with a light coating of sauce.
- In a large frying pan, brown off 100g chopped pancetta and 500g minced beef in a little olive oil. The pancetta should create a bit of fat to lubricate the pan but if the meat starts sticking, add a little more olive oil. You want to cook these until they’re just a little bit golden brown. Minced meat is not going to have the flavour of actual pieces of meat so we need all the help we can get and browning your meat so that it goes beyond that grey/brown colour and turns a slight golden brown is the secret. Once cooked, you can either tip all this into a bowl or cook your soffritto of vegetables in a different frying pan. Either way, I like to do this because if you cook the meat with the vegetables to begin with, the water from the vegetables will prevent your meat from browning.
- In another pan (or the same one if you’ve put your meat and pancetta aside in a bowl), fry 1 diced red onion, 3/4 cup diced celery, 3/4 cup diced carrots in a splash of olive oil until the onion is soft and transparent.
- Add 2 finely chopped garlic cloves and cook only for a minute so as not to brown your garlic.
- Now put your meat and pancetta back in the pan with the vegetables and pour over 3 cups of tomato passata or crushed tinned tomatoes, 1 tablespoon tomato paste, a pinch of oregano, 1/4 cup red wine, 1 tablespoon of sea salt, 1 tablespoon sugar and 2 bay leaves. Dried flakes of chilli are optional. Olives are optional but I’m half Greek so I love adding them to almost everything – just make sure they’re the soft sweet fleshy kalamata olives not those hard nasty black manufactured olives that taste metallic and often come in a can! Stir and cook on a high heat for 5 minutes before reducing to a simmer for 15 minutes or until thickened and reduced slightly.
- Once your pasta is almost al dente and ready to be drained, take half a cup of the starchy water and add it to your sauce. It sounds counterintuitive but it will thicken the sauce and make it glossy. Cook on a medium heat for another three minutes after this. I like to take my pasta out before it is al dente and then cook it for the last few minutes in the sauce with the pasta water for best results. Remove the bay leaves. Top your pasta with a generous spoonful of ragu’ and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and a little drizzle of olive oil.