Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Making a Great Ragù

Spaghetti sauce doesn't always include meat, but, even when it does, meat is only playing a supporting role. The sauce is slightly runny, and it's mostly about tomatoes and herbs.

That can be good. But I have always liked a meaty sauce, which is probably why I prefer a ragù to a typical bolognese sauce.

And I think I have finally settled on a formula for making a marvelous ragù to accompany pasta. I made a ragù a few days ago -- two days later, it was still excellent -- using equal portions of ground pork and ground veal.

A key is not to overcook the ground meat. I have had great results by cooking it most of the way in a skillet and then transferring it to a dutch oven, adding equal parts of red wine and a mixture of chicken and/or veal stock. You want just enough liquid so that the meat will stay moist.

Then I place it in the oven, covered, and cook it at a very low temperature (225 degrees) for about 60 to 90 minutes. This is what braising is all about.

I take it out once to stir it and add some herbs (usually thyme and oregano) about a tablespoon of minced garlic, and a 1/4 cup of onion or shallot (chopped very fine).

Then I finish it on the stovetop (over low heat) and I add a tablespoon or two of flour just to thicken it up and add body.

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