Roman Ragù

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(click on pics to enlarge)

This is one of my favorite dishes.  While it cooks slowly for 1 ½ hours, it takes all of 20 minutes to put together.  The only challenge is finding a store that sells pancetta.  I found one here and had them cut a ¼” thick slice.

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I have to give props to my favorite Italian chef Biba Caggiano for this dish.  She has a restaurant in Sacramento (Biba’s).  I own several of her cookbooks and met her many times.  Until I went to her restaurant, I always thought Italian food was spaghetti and meatballs.  But Italian food has many facets from seafood to different kinds of pork like pancetta and prosciutto, simple cuts of beef like Ossobuco, thick sauces and light sauces, wild game, birds and northern Italian food including dishes like Jewish Hamim, a Kosher Jewish dish from northern Italy near Venice made with three kinds of beef, beans and fruit like prunes and apricots.  Name the ingredient and Italian food has a recipe for it.

When asking about Italian food it would be more exact to ask from which region are you speaking?  While I live in Cajun country, my recipe blog has more Italian recipes.  Cajun food is wonderful but is the food of one region.  It is a food largely influenced by France, Italy and Germany.  True Cajun foods are variations on a Roux gravy (fried flour and oil).  Fried Cajun seafood is nothing more than a Piccata.  When adding Creole food to the list of Cajun dishes then the menu begins to expand.  But, as Italian food does, almost all Cajun and Creole foods center around that wonderful fruit/berry called the tomato.  If you can master the tomato, you have a good dish.   It blends well with so many other ingredients.

The other berry that is a compliment to all food is the grape.  Grapes from regions in France, Germany, Italy, Napa Valley and the Central Coast of California are my preferred wines.  There is this one Italian wine the beats all; I call it “God’s Nectar”.  It is a dessert wine called Madiera.  This dessert wine is divinely fortified with brandy, almonds and lemon zest.  My favorite bottle is made at V. Sattui Winery in Napa Valley and is now $50 a bottle.  I remember buying it for $15 a bottle – back in the day.

We can’t forget the all-important and healthy for your body – the olive.  What would Italian food and Cajun food for that matter be without olive oil?

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Back to the Ragù:

Defined:  Ragù is a meat-based sauce commonly served with pasta.

Serves 2 -4

Meat:

  • 1 – ¼” slice of pancetta (diced)
  • ½ Lb. of ground pork
  • ½ Lb. of ground beef

Sauce:

  • 3 large Roma tomatoes (chopped)
  • 2 garlic cloves (sliced cross ways into little dimes)
  • 1 cup of dry red wine (Chianti or Burgundy)
  • ½ cup veal stock (beef stock will do)
  • Fresh oregano leaves – 2 stalks (or a pinch of dried)
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1 TBSP butter
  • 1 TBSP olive oil

Soffritto:

Note:  The French call this a Mirepoix, the Germans call this a Suppengrün and the Italians call it a Soffritto.  It’s the same thing.  These are complimentary vegetables that add sugary flavor to the dish.

  • 1 carrot (minced)
  • 1 celery stalk (minced)
  • ½ onion (minced)
  • I mince the Soffritto beforehand in a food processor.

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I also use fresh oregano from my garden.

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Cooking Steps:

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Chop the pancetta.  In a 3 quart sauce pot add one TBSP olive oil and get hot.  Add the pancetta and sauté several minutes, and then add the pork and beef and brown for maybe five minutes.  Remove meat with a slotted spoon leaving the liquid and the oil.

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Add the Soffritto and sauté five to eight minutes and then add the tomatoes and butter. Return the meat to the pot and add the wine.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Add the oregano leaves.  Mix.  Add a little beef broth if necessary just to make more gravy.  It doesn’t need much, maybe a quarter cup.

Bring to a slight boil, then reduce heat to a very low simmer, cover and cook for 1 ½ hours.

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Serve over thin spaghetti with Parmesan cheese.

Make sure to place your spaghetti in boiling water and cook exactly 12 minutes.

Can it be that easy?

(Someone say yes!)

Picture of my kitties.  They both like pancetta BTW.

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