There are times where I wish I could say "I made my mother's ragu, handed down through the generations from mother daughter. It's an old family tradition from the Old Country."
But we're Irish & German, have been here since 1780 or so, and my foremothers embraced the convenience of early modern agribusiness prior to WWII with a startling eagerness. Oh there were jars of home canned stuff in my Nan's larder when I was a child, but no one had seen her can a thing after 1951.
Tellingly perhaps, I cannot remember any of the jars every being opened, let alone eaten.
This is my family's traditional ragu.
It even says 'traditional' right on the label.
I'm rather fond of it actually. There are so few 'family recipes' in my background that I take what I can get.
But sometimes, usually around now, when it gets really cold for the first time in months, the complete lack of Italian blood in me calls out for a dish of rich meaty ragu, served over polenta. And ConAgra's contribution won't cut it.
I make this sort of ragu
I should have remembered to take the photos *before* we ate.
And before I spooned half of it into a bag for the freezer
The pot was actually nearly brim full of ragu when it was done cooking.
It's good over pasta shells, rigatoni or gnocci, and in lasagna, but I like it best over polenta.
It takes freakin forever to make this ragu but it's worth it. Most of the time is just waiting around for it to cook but there is a about 30 minutes of activity leading up to that and another 10-20 or so after. You end up with about 8-9 cups of ragu from this, which works out to about 3 dinners in my house.
2 28 ounce cans of tomatoes - crushed or whole doesn't really matter, you'll be pureeing them. Get good ones, home canned if possible (assuming you know they were canned in this century)
2 pounds or so bone in beef short ribs, trimmed of large areas of fat
1 pound of boneless chuck meat,likewise trimmed
1 pound of sausage, links or ground, your choice
1 small yellow onion - peeled & chopped
2 cloves of garlic smashed & chopped
2 carrots peeled & grated
2 ribs of celery likewise
4 ounces of portabella or crimini mushrooms, chopped
1 cup of white wine
2 strips of thick sliced bacon, chopped
a handful of chopped parsley
salt & pepper
First you need to puree the tomatoes and then strain them, pushing them through a metal strainer set over a bowl. You want to strain out the tougher bits of skins & the seeds. Salt & pepper the tomato puree. Set that aside & preheat the oven to 300.
It a large dutch oven, about 7 quarts, though mine is a bit smaller than that, brown the sausage, breaking it up as you do. Then remove it and set it aside to drain. Pour off the excess fat, but leave a little & add some olive oil. Over medium high heat brown the chuck all over, remove it, add a bit more oil if needed and brown the ribs all over. This takes about 10 minutes or so.
If you're like me, use this time to chop & grate up all that stuff you didn't get around to doing ahead of time.
Remove the ribs, pour off the fat and wipe the pan out with paper towels, set it to medium heat then add the bacon. Stir the bacon and let it brown. Once it is browned add a bit more oil and add the onions, carrots, celery & garlic. Stir them often as they brown & get soft, about 7-8 minutes. Then add the mushrooms and parsley and stir them around for a bit. Add the beef, but not the sausage. Stir it all around well, then add the wine, turn up the heat to high and let it cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the pureed tomatoes, stir and let come to a simmer.
Put the lid on it and slide it into the oven for 2.5 hours. Put the sausage in the fridge until about 10 minutes before the ragu is done in the oven.
When the time is up remove the ragu. Remove the meat from the sauce, all of it, even the bits that have fallen off the bones. Set it aside to cool a bit. There will be a good bit of oil floating around on top of the sauce. Remove it with a spoon or turkey baster. Then puree the sauce, either in batches in a blender or with a hand blender in the pot, carefully. Once the meat can be handled (10-15 minutes) remove the bones, any chunks of fat or connective tissue and discard. Shred up the meat and return it to the sauce. Add the sausage. Stir and reheat to a simmer for about 10 minutes. Salt & pepper to taste
I usually make polenta, putting 4 cups of cold water with a cup of coarse corn meal in a pan and setting it over medium low heat and stirring it from time to time until it gets thick, then stirring it more frequently (usually in between shredding up the meat & things).It takes 30-40 minutes for the polenta to get thick enough to pull from the sides of the pot.
Pile some polenta on a plate, scatter some provolone & mozzarella over it and ladle a big helping of ragu over that.
It's seriously hearty. Make no plans after dinner.