There is an Italian proverb that states “Quello che si fa il primo dell’anno si fa tutto l’anno.” Translated: “That which you do at the beginning of the year you will do the rest of year.” This year I kicked off 2011 on January 1st by making a full Italian dinner including my friend’s recipe for “Ragu Reale.”
During a trip to Puglia (the heel of Italy’s ‘boot’) in 2002 I stayed with my friend Loredana’s family and entertained them all with the fact that there is a whole line of tomato sauces in the United States branded “Ragu.” Loredana’s sister Margherita felt she needed to remedy any American misconceptions about what a real ragu was and set out to teach me her favorite recipe for a Sunday night family meal – a tomato meat sauce she called “Ragu Reale” – The Real Ragu!
Armed with this fabulous new recipe, I returned home and treated my friends to this new found treasure. My friends raved and this warm and tasty “Ragu Reale” became a reliable favorite that winter. This most recent winter, with Jack Frost an all too regular visitor, my mind hearkened back to that “real ragu” that would be just what I needed to combat Mr. Frost. So I scrambled through boxes of old handwritten letters until I excitedly found that precious envelope from Margherita containing the prized recipe.
I was worried that it wouldn’t live up to my memories but it turned out to be just as rich and wonderful as when I first had it in Italy. Enjoy! Happy New Year!
Recipe for Authentic Italian Veal and Pork Ragu (recipe adapted from Italian version by my friend Margherita)
Serves 6-8, freeze for up to 3 months
2 medium carrots, diced
1 medium sweet onion, diced
1 stalk of celery, diced
5 Tablespoons of olive oil
1/2 pound ground veal
1/2 pound ground pork (you can substitute one pound of either pork or veal if you don’t have access to both)
1 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt*
8 cups strained tomatoes (I used Pomi brand)
Add olive oil to a large saucepan or stock pot and bring pan to medium heat. Add carrots, celery and onions and sauté for 5-10 minutes, until onions are translucent. Add the pork and veal and continue to cook over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the white wine and cook for 10-15 minutes over low to medium heat, until the liquid reduces slightly. Add the salt and tomatoes and continue to simmer for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally to ensure it doesn’t burn.
You want the sauce to reduce down so that it’s thick and can almost “stand” on the pasta.
Serve on a short, textured, gluten-free pasta like fusilli or farfalle and top with a grated hard cheese such as parmigiano reggiano or pecorino romano.
I highly recommend serving it with this gluten-free garlic cheese bread.
To take your decadence to the next level, indulge in dessert – try this warm Indonesian-style banana topping on top of ice cream and a gluten-free brownie.
*It’s tempting to add extra salt if you taste along the way, but wait until you are actually serving the sauce before adding any if you absolutely must. The coarse salt takes longer to break down and as the sauce reduces the concentration of salt becomes stronger. Also the final dish will include the salt from the pasta (if you salt the pasta water) and should be topped with a salty hard cheese like pecorino romano or parmigiano reggiano. I am usually VERY generous with my salt but you could make this sauce irreparably salty which would just be tragic after all of the work you’ve done.
Original recipe in Italian from the the region of Puglia (the heel of the boot):
“Ragu Reale” di Margherita Santillo Castaldo
500 gr di carne macinata (vitello o maiale)
2 litri di salsa di pomodoro
1 bicchiere di vino bianco
5 cucchiai di olio di oliva
Mezzo cucchiaio di sale grosso
1 gambo di sedano
Tritare la carota, cipolla e sedano, mettere queste cose nella pentola con l’olio, far soffriggere, un po’ e mettere la carne farla soffriggere e mettere il vino bianco, far aciugare il vino, mettere il sale e la salsa di pomodoro, far cucinare per 2 ore, ma controlla sempre che non si bruci!
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