Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Italy On My Mind

My friend Ale is Italian. She is gorgeous, funny, talented, an amazing artist, and is one of the loveliest people I know. She loves cats, has two beautifully oversized ones of her own, and loves to cook as well. During one of our infrequent chats online, we got around to talking about ragu, and the recipes we used. She was sweet enough to give me her version and I decided that I just had to try it.

Amazing success! It's quick, easy, and the hardest part about it is taking a little time to dice the vegetables. The smell of the ragu simmering on the hob is heavenly.

Ale didn't give me exact quantities of ingredients for her ragu, she just told me what she used in it and I made approximations, then wrote it down for safekeeping. I'll definitely be making this again, as it's even better over a couple of days in the fridge. Thank you so much Ale!


1 large or 3 small young stalks celery, diced small
1 small onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
½ a leek, green leaf part, sliced
1 small can tomato puree (6oz, or 170g)
¼ - ½ cup water
500g ground beef, pork, or a mix of both
Drizzle olive oil for cooking (1 tsp maybe?)
4 Italian sausages, sliced (optional)
Fresh or dried herbs (I used chopped, fresh sage and rosemary)

1. Heat up the olive oil in a medium saucepan on medium heat, and add the diced onion and sliced leek. Saute for about 5-10 minutes, stirring constantly; you want the onions to have a bit of a brown edge, but not totally scorched, so adjust your sauté time accordingly.

2. Add in the diced celery and carrot. Stir constantly to sauté so nothing burns. You want them to be cooked and looking a bit softish or wilted.

3. Add in the ground beef and stir to break up. Let the meat cook and brown a bit, mixing it up with the vegetables in the saucepan. If you are using Italian sausages, add them now. Add in the entire can of tomato puree, mix everything together well, and add a little bit (maybe 1/8 cup) water to deglaze the pan and make sure nothing sticks. Stir everything up again to incorporate, add the rest of the water and stir again. You want the sauce to have just a little bit of liquid to simmer, not be a soup.

4. Bring the saucepan to a simmer, half-cover with the lid (ie, don’t put the lid on completely, just leave a little vent so the pan’s mostly covered), and simmer for 30 minutes. Stir occasionally to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom of the saucepan; if it does and won’t easily nudge off the bottom with a few good stirs, add a little water. If you have sprigs of herbs or dried herbs, put ‘em in now. I forgot, so I added chopped herbs at the end.

5. Season to taste with Tuscan herb salt (if you have it. I just made a batch so I used that) or ordinary salt, let simmer for another 5-10 minutes, then turn off the fire.

6. Serve hot over pasta, polenta or risotto (or in my case, just plain boiled rice).

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