I’ve really been enjoying The Tuscan Sun Cookbook by Frances and Edward Mayes this past week. So far I’ve posted the Chicken with Olives and Tomatoes recipe which includes the Roasted Tomato recipe.
Now I’m sharing with you Giusi’s Ragu. Giusi is one of the authors’ close friends whom they met early in their move to the Tuscan countryside, and who, like the others, has shared passed-down, hallowed recipes each with their own creative touch. To quote the author…
Slow and easy-long-simmered ragu is the quintessential Tuscan soul food. There are as many ways with ragu as there are cooks. This is ours, learned originally from Guisi, who’s made it a thousand times. By now, I think we have, too. On many Saturday mornings, Ed makes a huge pot of ragu-tripling, quadrupling the recipe-and another of tomato sauce. We consider these our natural resources. For lunch, while the pots are still on the stove, we spoon ragu over bruschetta, add some cheese, and run it under the broiler. By afternoon, we’re ready to fill several glass containers of different sizes and freeze them. We’re then free to pull out one during the workweek.
Serve ragu in lasagne or over spaghetti and, as you eat, you know you’re participating in a communal rite that’s being enacted all over the Italian peninsula.
Now for the ragu…
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound ground lean beef
1 pound ground pork
2 Italian sausages, casings removed
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried
1 to 2 cups red wine
1 cup soffritto (recipe follows)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
16 to 20 tomatoes or 2 28-ounce cans whole tomatoes, juice included, chopped
Pour the olive oil into a 4-quart heavy pot with a lid. Over medium-high heat, brown the meats, breaking up the sausage with a wooden spoon, about 10 minutes.
Add the salt„ pepper, thyme, and 1 cup of the red wine. After the wine has cooked into the meat, about 10 minutes, add the soffritto, and stir in the tomato paste and tomatoes.
Bring the sauce to a boil, and then lower to a quiet simmer. Partially cover, and continue cooking for 3 hours, stirring now and then. Along the way, add the remaining cup of wine if you think the sauce is too dense.
A quick saute of carrot, onion, celery and flat-leaf parsley starts off many sauces and meats. It is similar to mirepoix in France. Depending on the recipe, you can add a variety of other ingredients to the soffritto: 2 minced cloves of garlic, 4 or 5 torn basil leaves, or other aromatic herbs.
Use this in ragu or soup and as a seasoning for zucchini, peas, or other vegetables. Mix some with breadcrumbs and stuff tomatoes with it. Add a cup of chopped, oven-roasted tomatoes to a soffritto, and you have a perfect sauce for spaghetti.
For a quick dinner, make a big batch ahead of time and freeze in 1/2 cup portions for you to grab for your recipe.
The following makes 1 cup of soffritto
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, minced
1 carrot, minced
1 celery stalk, minced
1 handful of flat-leaf parsley, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
(You can mince by hand or in a food processor)
Saute the ingredients in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until they begin to color and turn tender, 5 to 7 minutes.
Proceed with your recipe, or cool and freeze.