pappardelle al ragù
Italians love pasta. Forget about «Bolognese» or «Napoli», this is for tourists. The real Italian pasta sauce is “ragù”. I used to east this dish in a restaurant (Kunsthalle) in Basel, the only place where this dish convinced me. The sauce is so full of flavor, as the cooking goes on for hours and the flavors have time to develop. No need to worry, you prepare everything and then let it sit on the stove without any hassle. In my version, I add a bit of balsamic vinegar (the real one from Modena) in order to add some sweet acidity.
Another advantage of this dish is, apart from its fabulous taste, the low cost of the meat and the quantities you can prepare for a high number of guests – all you need is a big pan!
Ingredients for 4:
800g beef (chuck or beef shoulder meat)
300g vegetables (1 carrot, 1 onion, 1 piece of root celery, 1 piece of leek, 2 garlic cloves) – all together about 300g but don’t worry if it is a bit less or more!
1 TBS tomato concentrate / paste
2 TBS dark balsamic vinegar
3dl red wine
3dl beef stock
300g pelati (Italian tomato chunk from the can)
3 stalks of fresh rosemary
5 stalks of fresh thyme
1 leaf of fresh sage
Olive oil and butter
Pecorino Romano (alternatively you can use parmesan, but pecorino is smoother and tastes better!)
Start by cutting the vegetable into small cubes. They don’t need to look nice as you will get rid of them later. Set aside.
Cut the meat into cubes (see picture) and sear in a big and heavy pan in hot olive oil. The meat just needs to take color (high heat). Make several portions / don’t overfill the pan. Season with lots of black pepper and a bit of salt. Set aside.
Add a good piece of butter (about two TBS) into the hot pan and add the vegetables. They have to roast for about five to ten minutes. Now add the tomato puree and keep on roasting. Deglaze with the balsamic vinegar and half of the wine, make sure nothing gets stuck and continuously stir. Once the liquid has reduced, add the rest of the wine, wait a bit, and then add the beef stock, the tomatoes and the beef (you set aside before).
Set the temperature to low heat, stir once more, and cover the pan with a lid. Now let the whole thing bubble away for the next four hours (you can also leave it for six hours, no problem, but four hours is usually enough). From time to time, check if the sauce is simmering and stir once an hour to make sure all the ingredients are well mixed. For the last 45 minutes, add the herbs and remove the lid.
Now take out the meat and set aside. Sieve the sauce into another pan and get rid of all the vegetables and herbs – they did their job and flavored the sauce for hours. With two forks, tear the meat pieces apart (pulled beef) and put them back into the sauce. Taste and eventually season with salt and pepper.
Cook the pasta (al dente), serve in deep plates, grate some pecorino Romano on top and decorate with thyme.