Back in 2000 when I moved to Ferrara, North Italy I began my true passion for all things food as I would regularly sit with my neighbours learning the language, both the spoken and the language of food and wine.
As you will read in the Rules of #ParlezPantry (of which there are very few):
- Don’t cook with it if you wouldn’t drink it.
- I have no rules regarding whether white wine must accompany fish or whether a red wine must be paired with a rabbit stew; you should just simply try to match the weight of the food with the weight of the wine and #FFS have what you enjoy.
To me, nothing says Italian food more than a deeply rich Ragù (not even pizza). Over the years I have tinkered around with this style but always stayed true to the teachings that the nonnas gave me; what a 3 year tour that was.
So often missed by many is the first simple but vital ingredient of fresh tomatoes, it truly doesn’t matter what kind as this method is a long, low and slow recipe.
Simply place the tomatoes in boiling water until the skins start to split, once all the skins have at least a single split let them remain for a further 3 minutes then remove them, place them in a sieve to cool, do not peel them until they are cool, this important tip will save you swearing at random moments whilst burning the ends of your fingers, first task done. Remove and throw the skin away and mash the tomatoes with your potato masher.
- 1 dozen good quality sausages
- 4 anchovies
- 2 tspn of garlic puree
- 1/2 red pepper
- 1/2 yellow pepper
- 2 red onions
- 1 bottle of Chianti
- 200ml reduced beef stock
- 2.5 kg passata
- finely chopped Rosemary
- freshly ground black pepper
For the sofrito (all finely diced):
- 1 white onion
- 1 carrot
- 1 celery stick
For this Ragù we’re going to start by skinning a dozen good quality sausages. You can choose the meat you wish but for this recipe I’m using 92% pork sausages, which shall provide just the right amount of fat when considering that we shall be using lardons (instead of pancetta) too; this method is often a better choice than just minced meat as you can almost pick ‘n mix any herbs and spices that are already within the meat before adding additional spices of your own choice.
Soak the meat overnight in the whole bottle of Chianti, black pepper and the Rosemary whilst sealed in the fridge; don’t worry, the wine shall not go to waste as it shall inflate and permeate the meat overnight and then form the liquid for the first reduction.
Next up, chop the anchovies, you won’t taste them but they will melt and add a wonderful depth of flavour and place in the pan on a medium heat along with the garlic and gently cook for 4 minutes.
Dice the ingredients for the sofrito and cook along with the pepper for 4 minutes on a medium to high heat stirring every minute.
Add the lardons and turn the heat to high, the fat will render out of the bacon and allow the flavour to crisp the meat whilst gifting the flavour to the sofrito.
Once the lardons have crisped up perfectly add the chopped red onion slowly sweating them and stirring every 30 seconds or so until the sweetness of the red onions have been released. Make sure the Chianti soaked meat has been at room temperature for at least 30 minutes prior to adding to your pan.
The meat will smell incredible at this stage as the wine has seeped throughout all the fibres.
Using a slotted spoon remove the meat and add to the pan, there will be enough liquid initially that you will hear the sizzle, stir the meat continually for the next 3 or 4 minutes.
Once the initial moisture has been removed from the meat add the remainder of the wine and Rosemary and lower the heat to a medium high. When the wine has been reduced all the alcohol has been removed and the intensity of the flavour has increased hugely.
Add the beef stock and the mashed tomatoes followed by the passata and raise the heat once again, after 2 minutes lower to a medium heat and leave it alone, don’t be tempted to touch for at least 45 minutes. Do not cover the pan as that won’t permit the liquid to reduce.
Stir after the first 45 minutes and leave again for another 20 minutes, at this stage you should start to see track lines when you stir, as below.
Continue to stir every 20 minutes and reduce the heat to low.
Continue as above until you reach the track line status of the above image. At this stage cook your pasta of choice but ensure you add 2 or 3 ladles of the pasta water to the meat before you strain your pasta.
Stir well and add 2/5ths of the pasta to the pan.
Serve the remaining 3/5ths of pasta plain but adjacent to the sauce. Portion each plate with a twist of the 2/5ths coated pasta, a cheese of your choice and allow the guests to add additional pasta and meat.
A simple drizzle of a homemade chilli oil will add the perfect touch.