Milk Braised Ragu With Peas and Beans

One of those dishes that doesn’t sound so appealing, but, it is simple and delicious, and completely unexpected. A great ragu for any “tomato haters”. Or just if you fancy something new and different.
I use a good sized deep saute pan or frying pan to make this ragu.
Serves 3-4

Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • 50-70g of diced pancetta
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 1-2 crushed garlic cloves
  • 400-500g minced beef/pork/veal (any one will do, and the beef, surprisingly, really does work well)
  • 2-3 tsp fennel seeds lightly crushed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1-2 rosemary sprigs, needles removed and chopped
  • 200ml white wine
  • 1 small lemon, zest pared with a vegetable peeler, and juice. If it’s a larger lemon just use half. It depends how lemony you like it.
  • 200ml whole milk
  • 200g peas (frozen are great)
  • 200g small broad beans (frozen, or fresh if you are lucky enough to have them)
  • 2-3 tablespoons grated parmesan, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 400-500g rigatoni or similar pasta shape, shells would work

Method

  1. Heat some olive oil in the pan and add the pancetta till it begins to gently brown and renders its fat.
  2. Add the onion and cook it gently till it goes soft
  3. Add the garlic for a couple of minutes to cook it off
  4. Now add the minced meat and cook it a slightly higher heat until the meat is beginning to colour
  5. At the same time add the fennel seeds, rosemary, and bay leaves
  6. Once the meat is really cooking, a couple of minutes, add the wine and let it simmer down to about half
  7. Add the lemon zest and juice, and the milk, don’t worry about it curdling, it will be fine once cooked
  8. Add a little salt and pepper
  9. Simmer gently with a lid for about 30 minutes to gently cook the dish
  10. You can either blanch the peas and beans in a pot of boiling water or just cook them in the ragu, whatever you prefer.
  11. Boil a pot of water and cook your rigatoni
  12. Stir in the grated parmesan to the ragu and let it melt and incorporate
Serve the rigatoni in bowls with the ragu spooned over. Some extra parmesan on the side is useful. A nice olive oil for drizzling might be to some people’s taste. A sprinkle of freshly chopped parsley wouldn’t go amiss….

Ragu (Bolognese Sauce)

This is now my favourite Ragu sauce for pasta. It’s not a traditional Bolognese sauce but this is how I like it.
You can do this with beef, or pork, or a mix of pork and beef. I like the mixed pork & beef mince. You can either get pork and beef and grind it yourself or you can buy it ready minced.
I suggest you make a double batch. Have a fresh egg pasta, ideally tagliatelle, with the sauce. Or Gnocchi is good. Bag up a couple for the freezer. Or make a lasagne. A homemade lasagne with fresh homemade pasta sheets is a bit of work, but a joy.
Serve with grated parmesan or a lovely creamy pecorino if you have.

Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 2 medium onions
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 50-100g of pancetta (it’s even better if you can get proper Italian pancetta)
  • 2 garlic cloves, cut in half lengthwise
  • Bouquet Garni – Sprig of rosemary, Sprig of sage, Couple of fresh bay leaves. Chopped basil stalks can be good too if not too woody and just added to the soffrito.
  • Half bottle of drinkable red wine
  • Tablespoon of tomato paste
  • 1kg good fresh tomatoes, peeled and deseeded, then chopped. (Alternatively, I frequently use a couple of tins as the fresh ones are often poor)
  • 500g Minced Beef
  • 500g Minced Pork
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. Finely chop the carrots, onion, celery. And the pancetta into matchsticks
  2. Put a decent amount of olive oil in a pot and fry off the carrots, onion, celery, with the garlic cloves in a pot and fry them moderately to make the soffritto. Keep stirring and the aim is to sweat them off but not brown them too much.
  3. Fry the pancetta until slightly crispy and add to the soffritto.
  4. In a separate frying pan brown the mince in some oil. Do it in parts. Grey steamed mince is not what we want. This needs a properly hot pan and the mince needs to brown. A slightly golden colour as the mince ever so slightly crisps is the desired outcome. You can actually hear the change in sound from a hiss to a more crackly sound as the mince begins to caramelise. This is what makes the flavour in your ragu. Put the cooked mince in with the vegetables and repeat until you are done. (Tom Kerridge cooks the mince spread thinly on a baking sheet and in a very hot oven until quite golden, I’ve not tried yet but seems like it could be easier and less smoky in the kitchen.)
  5. Now add the herbs in the bouquet garni to the pot, turn the heat up and add the red wine. Stir and cook it off until almost all of the wine is gone.
  6. Add the tomato paste and the tomatoes and stir it in. Bringing back to a gentle simmer.
  7. Put a lid on it and put it in a medium oven for about 90 minutes. Check it every 30 minutes or so. If it’s too wet and sloppy then leave the lid off so it reduces a bit. Don’t be frightened to give it another 30 minutes if it needs it.
  8. When you take it out the sauce should be rich and thick. If it’s not you can put it on the stovetop and reduce it down, but stand over it, stirring all the time or you will burn it.
I bag it up in single and double portions and freeze it so it’s a source of convenient meals. It’s one of those great discoveries in the freezer when you can’t be bothered doing much cooking and you find a leftover bag of ragu. A quick microwave and a boiling of spaghetti produces a delicious emergency dinner.

Oxtail Ragu

Beefy oxtail ragu makes a delicious rich sauce for pasta. Serves 4 as a main or 6-8 as a starter. Takes a few hours to cook, but not much time to prepare. Great to make the day before needed and this also makes it easier to remove the layer of fat from the casserole before serving.

Ingredients

  • 2 carrots
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 stick celery
  • 1 leek if you have it
  • 2 chopped cloves of garlic
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1kg Oxtail
  • 1 bottle red wine
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 1 sprig sage with 2 large leaves

Method

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 140C fan
  2. Chop the carrot, onion, celery and leek into a fine dice.
  3. Make a soffrito (Heat the olive oil and add the diced veg and the garlic and sweat them off in a casserole pot till cooked but not browned)
  4. While the soffrito is cooking brown the oxtail pieces in a frying pan with some of the olive oil
  5. Add the browned oxtail to the casserole
  6. Add the herbs and pour in the red wine and bring to a simmer
  7. Put the casserole in the oven and cook for 4-5 hours until there is a rich dark sauce and the oxtail is tender
  8. Once cooked take the casserole from the oven and let it cool enough that the oxtail can be removed to a plate to strip the meat from the bones. Collect the meat in a bowl.
  9. Remove the herb stalks
  10. The casserole of ragu will have a decent layer of fat. Either skim this off with a large spoon and discard. Or, chill the sauce in the fridge overnight and the fat will harden and can be easily removed.
  11. To serve, recombine the pieces of oxtail meat with the ragu in a small pot and heat
Best with a chunky pasta like pappardelle. Serve a portion of pasta in a pasta bowl, spoon over some ragu. Serve with a cheese like pecorino or ossau iraty.
Variant
  • This would also make a lovely ravioli. Perhaps 3 medium sized ravioli with homemade pasta per person. With a some of the ragu, with only a small amount of sauce, for the filling. Use the rest of the sauce to dress the ravioli. Perhaps some sort of creamy horseradish drizzle would lift it to something pretty special.