Doin That Ragu

CLASSIC ROCK BANDS RECIPE #1

THE GRATEFUL DEAD

“DOIN THAT RAGU”

 

Why not begin with our title track recipe?  The Grateful Dead have been a big part of my life for years.  I saw over thirty shows (a paltry number by DeadHead standards) in the eighties and nineties, a handful of Garcia Band and Bob Weir/Rat Dog events, and dozens of post Jerry shows by the surviving members.  Not to mention the countless DVD’s and recordings I purchased and tribute/cover bands I went to hear too.  What better way to honor the band I followed more closely than any other than to name the blog after one of their songs and use for the first entry.

A ragu derives from the French ragout meaning a reinvented stew from pre-used meats and/or vegetables.  The Italians borrowed the idea to dress pasta and through immigration it has mainly come to mean a meat sauce in the United States and that is what we will concentrate on with our ragu.  If you see below I have also included basic recipes for marinara sauce and Italian-American tomato sauce as a point of reference or that you might use with or in place of our ragu sauce.

I am going to construct a very basic ragu for you but done my way.  There are countless variations on how to do a meat sauce.  A lot of you might know it by the name of Bolognese sauce but that is just one type which can also be done several ways.  You can use ground meat or meat on the bone or a combination.  We will only use ground meat in this example.  You can vary which vegetables, herbs, and spices to use too.  You can also do any combination of meats.  Beef is most common but poultry also works well and game like wild boar, rabbit, or ostrich work great too!

 

THE RECIPE

 

INGREDIENTS:

            5 TBSP olive oil divided

1 lb. Ground Beef

1 lb. Ground Pork

Salt and Black Pepper to taste

1 cup finely chopped Yellow Onion peeled

½ cup finely chopped Carrot peeled

½ cup finely chopped Celery

1 TBSP finely chopped Garlic peeled

½ cup White Wine

2 x 35 oz. cans Italian Peeled Tomatoes

1 TSP chopped Rosemary

1 TSP chopped Thyme

½ TSP dried Marjoram or Oregano

2 Bay Leaves

½ cup Heavy Cream (optional)

Parmesan or Romano cheese for serving (optional)

 

COOKING INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. In a large bowl empty the contents of both Tomato Cans and with clean hands lightly crush the Tomatoes
  2. In a 4 quart Dutch Oven heat 2 TBSP olive oil over medium heat
  3. Add the Ground Beef and Ground Pork and break apart with a wooden spoon. Brown the meat breaking the meat down into small pieces (about 10 minutes).  Drain in a colander.
  4. In the same pot heat the remaining 3 TBSP olive oil over medium heat
  5. Add Onions, Carrots and Celery and sauté till soft (about 8 minutes)
  6. Add Garlic and a little Salt and Pepper and continue cooking for another 2 minutes
  7. Add Wine and let simmer and reduce by half (about 4 minutes)
  8. Pour in the Tomatoes and be careful of splattering and let cook for a minute or so
  9. Using the empty cans and the empty bowl if you like pour in enough water through the vessels to cover the contents in the Dutch Oven and raise the heat to high
  10. Bring to a boil and then set at a low simmer
  11. Add the Rosemary, Thyme, Marjoram, the Bay Leaves, and season well with Salt and Pepper
  12. Simmer uncovered till reduced and till a nice saucy consistency is achieved (about 2 ½ hours). If sauce reduces too quickly add a little more water to allow it to cook longer.  The art of a good ragu is to let a simmer a long time on the stove.
  13. If you wish to give your sauce a creamy taste add the Heavy Cream after the ragu is finished simmering and simmer a few minutes longer to complete the sauce
  14. Remove the Bay Leaves before serving

Dress your favorite pasta with this sauce and top with the cheese if desired.  It will keep in the fridge for a while or you can freeze part of it.  It also works very well as a filler for any baked pasta dishes like lasagna or manicotti.

 

WINE PAIRING:  A number of Italian red wines work well with this tomato and meat based dish but my choice would be from Tuscany where Sangiovese is king and marries best with rustic dishes like this.  A Chianti or Tuscan Red blend is recommended.

 

BONUS RECIPES

 

STEVE’S MARINARA SAUCE

 

INGREDIENTS:

28 oz. can Italian Peeled Tomatoes

3 TBSP Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1/4 cup chopped Yellow Onion peeled

4 Garlic Cloves peeled and crushed with the back of a chef’s knife

½ TSP Crushed Red Pepper Flakes

Salt and Black Pepper to taste

12 Basil Leaves

COOKING INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Pour Tomatoes into a bowl and crush by hand
  2. Heat the EVOO in a 3-quart sauce pan over medium heat
  3. Add the Onion and sauté for about 3 minutes until soft
  4. Add the Garlic and Red Pepper Flakes and fry for a minute or two but don’t let burn
  5. Add the Tomatoes and bring to a boil
  6. Once boiling reduce to a steady simmer and add Salt and Pepper
  7. Partially cover the pot and let simmer for about 18 minutes
  8. Delicately tear the Basil Leaves into smaller pieces and add to the pot. Let simmer another couple of minutes then remove from the heat and let rest for about one-half hour to an hour.
  9. Taste and adjust seasonings if desired
  10. Transfer the contents to a food processor and pulse about five times to get a nice smooth consistency. I prefer my sauce this way.  If chunky is more your style then ignore this last step.

 

 

STEVE’S ITALIAN-AMERICAN TOMATO SAUCE

 

INGREDIENTS:

35 oz. can Italian Peeled Tomatoes

3 TBSP Extra Virgin Olive Oil

½ cup finely chopped Yellow Onion peeled

¼ cup finely chopped Carrot peeled

¼ cup finely chopped Celery

1 TBSP finely chopped Garlic peeled

Salt and Black Pepper to taste

¼ TSP Red Pepper Flakes

½ TSP dried Oregano

8 Basil Leaves

 

COOKING INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Place the contents of the Tomato can into a food processor and pulse about five times to get a smooth consistency
  2. Heat the Olive Oil in a 3-quart saucepan over medium heat
  3. Add the Onion, Carrot and Celery to the pot and sauté till soft (about 5 minutes)
  4. Add the Garlic and cook for another minute
  5. Season with a little Salt and Pepper
  6. Add the pulsed Tomatoes to the pot and let cook for a minute or two
  7. Using the empty Tomato can add about 1 cup of water sloshing around the outsides to get some of the Tomato juice involved and then add it to the pot and raise the temperature to high
  8. Heat to a boil then let simmer gently
  9. Add the Red Pepper Flakes, the Oregano and season well with Salt and Black Pepper
  10. Simmer uncovered until the sauce is nice and thick to your liking (about 45 minutes)
  11. Just before finishing tear the Basil Leaves into tiny pieces and add to the sauce

 

Author: Steve Melchior

I am a lover of many eclectic things; food, wine, art, music, travel, sports, movies, literature and of course The Grateful Dead. I combine all these interests into great ideas for food preparation and entertaining with friends and family.

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