Sunday, March 22, 2009

Italian Sausage Ragu

Pasta is one of my favourite dishes in the world, there is no comfort food better than a gigantic bowl of good quality handmade pasta with some old-fashioned meat sauce. Serve that with a piece of crunchy garlic bread and a good bottle of Chianti, and that's the most perfect dinner you will ever have.

Every Italian cook has their own special ragu i.e. meat sauce. Chances are, you will never find the one "authentic" Italian ragu. Some people like it without garlic, some without celery, some add milk, others don't, etc. etc. Well, as someone who has experimented a lot with creating the perfect ragu, I can tell you that the basics are always to start off with a soffrito (onion, celery and carrot mix), use good tomatoes (peeled and seeded) and keep herbs to a minimum. The only time you really want to use lots of fresh herbs is when you're preparing a simple tomato dish, otherwise, you should let the meat do the flavouring.

This recipe is a Konosur concoction, and combines both spicy Italian sausage with ground beef to create a rich and deeply satisfying ragu. I omitted milk from this recipe because of the usual dairy-free fiasco, but I think you will find that it works just fine. Remember to serve this with flat noodles, fresh ones if you can. Just a thin shaving of real Parmigiano would suffice for this. I promise you, you will think twice before buying that bottle of sauce from the grocery aisle.

Italian Sausage Ragu
Makes 6 servings

2 spicy Italian sausage links(you can also use mild), quartered with casings
1 lb lean ground beef (we used < 9% fat)
1 large yellow onion
1 medium carrot
2 ribs celery
1 small red pepper
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp double concentrated tomato paste or 4 tbsp tomato paste
3 14.5oz cans ground and peeled organic tomatoes
1/4 cup good dry red wine
2 tsp sweet basil
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp olive oil

Prepare the soffrito by chopping the onions, carrots, celery and red pepper together. I used a food processor and roughly pulsed everything.

Heat the olive oil on medium-high heat in a large pot or dutch oven. Saute the soffrito for about 5 -7 minutes until the onions are translucent. Add in the minced garlic, meat and sausage. Saute for another 10 minutes until the meat is browned and fragrant.

Add in the tomato paste and stir to combine. Saute for a couple more minutes until the tomato paste has blended in to the meat mixture. Add in the tomatoes, wine, basil and nutmeg, turn the heat down and cover. Simmer for at least 3 hours (4 if you have time), stirring from time to time. If the sauce becomes too thick, you can add in a little beef broth at a time - but this probably just means you've kept the heat on too high.

After 3 hours, season with salt and pepper to taste. The meat sauce should be thick. Stir through and turn the heat off. Serve with tagliatte and grated parmesan and chopped parsley on top. Remember not to oversaturated the noodles with the sauce since the sauce is very thick and a little goes a long way.

Note: To store, cool the sauce completely and freeze in airtight glass containers or double Ziploc bags. They freeze well for at least 3 weeks.


Anonymous said...

You know, I always do go overboard with spices in my tomato sauce, and I've been trying to scale that back and replace them with real stuff. Sausage is a rare treat in our place, but I still struggle with the mantra of "moderation, moderation."

Also, I have to say this: I am so totally geeked by your photos of this. I'm convinced that pasta, especially with a traditional red sauce, is one of the most difficult things to attractively photograph, which is so strange considering how familiar it is. But Amanda, these photos are just BEAUTIFUL. And tempting. And clean and well-lit . . . and probably most importantly totally sell the recipe, which I will be making once the opportunity arises.

Amanda said...

aleta: Thanks so much for your comment, I'm absolute rubbish at taking photos and think too long about it most of the time.

You can omit the Italian sausages and just use the ground lean beef! It really is worth just making it and eating it over the next two or three weeks in small batches with some salad on the side.

test it comm said...

That pasta looks good! I like using Italian sausage in pasta as it adds a lot of flavour.

caribbelle said...

Ok, you've sold me on the recipe with this photo alone. I think I'll make a batch and freeze some of it in portions for the days when I need a quick meal.