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An Authentic Ragu Bolognese

In Britain it’s really sad that so often stewed mince with the addition of herbs and tomato purée gets presented as bolognaise sauce – even, dare I say it, in lesser Italian restaurants. Yet properly made, an authentic ragù Bolognese bears absolutely no resemblance to this travesty. 

The real thing is a very slowly cooked, thick, concentrated, dark mahogany-coloured sauce, and because of this, very little is needed to coat pasta and give it that unmistakably authentic and evocative flavour of Italy. 

For me making ragù is something of a ritual; it’s not at all difficult, but if you give a little of your time to make it in bulk, then freeze some down for the future, you’ll always have the basis of a delightful meal ready-prepared when there’s no time to cook.

 
 

This recipe is taken from Delia's Winter Collection

Method

First take a large frying pan, the largest you have, heat 3 tablespoons of the oil and gently fry the onion and garlic over a medium heat for about 10 minutes, moving it around from time to time. While the onion is softening, chop the pancetta: the best way to do this after opening the pack is to roll the contents into a sausage shape, then using a sharp knife slice it lengthways into 4, then slice the lengths across as finely as possible.

After 10 minutes, add this to the pan to join the onions and garlic and continue cooking them all for another 5 minutes. Now transfer this mixture to the casserole. Add another tbsp of oil to the pan, turn the heat up to its highest then add the minced beef and brown it, breaking it up and moving it round in the pan. When the beef is browned tip it into the casserole. Heat another tbsp of the oil and do exactly the same with the minced pork. 

While the pork is browning, trim the chicken livers, rinse them under cold running water, dry them thoroughly with kitchen paper and chop them minutely small. When the pork is browned, transfer it to the casserole, then heat the remaining tablespoon of oil and brown the pieces of chicken liver.

Add these to the casserole. Now you've finished with the frying pan, so get rid of that and place the casserole over the direct heat, give everything a good stir together, then add the contents of the tins of tomatoes, the tomato purée, red wine and a really good seasoning of salt, pepper and nutmeg. Allow this to come up to simmering point. 

Then strip the leaves from half the basil, chop them very finely and add them to the pot. As soon as everything is simmering, place the casserole on the centre shelf of the oven and leave it to cook slowly, without a lid, for 4 hours. It's a good idea to have a look after 3 hours to make sure all is well, but what you should end up with is a thick, concentrated sauce with only a trace of liquid left in it, then remove it from the oven, taste to check the seasoning, strip the leaves off the remaining basil, chop them small and stir them in.

Then when the sauce is absolutely cold, divide it, using scales, by spooning 8 oz (225 g) into polythene freezer bags. Seal them leaving a little bit of air at the top to allow room for expansion. Each 8 oz (225 g) pack, thoroughly defrosted and re-heated, will provide enough ragù for 8 oz (225 g) pasta, which will serve 2 people. 

Note: If you don't have a 3.5 litre/6 pint capacity ovenproof casserole you can use a large baking dish preheated in the oven, but make sure everything comes up to simmering point in a large saucepan first.

 

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