As the mild start to the season has come to an end and we’re starting to feel a chill in the air I thought it would be the ideal time to share this wonderful recipe from our latest book ‘Sicily – Recipes from and Italian Island’. It’s complete comfort food, ‘rib sticking’, warming and the perfect antidote to the winter blues.
Ragù tradizionale di carne
Slow-cooked pork, beef & sausage ragu
Traditionally, ragu was made on a Sunday and normally it would be the mamma of the house who would get up early to get it started over a fire, so that it would be ready in time for a late lunch. Nowadays, with slow cookers and heavy, cast-iron casseroles like Le Creuset you can get it going, turn the oven on low and go out for the day. You will come back to a heavenly feast that is the wonderfully rich and sticky ragu ready to cling to pasta shapes or gnocchi.
We tested this recipe at our restaurant in Bray. A couple of the staff are Sicilian and they ate it for their dinner. They loved it and actually became quite emotional! I think we got pretty close to the original recipe. Don’t worry if you don’t have all the types of meat – it really should be made with what you have to hand, so use more beef or pork accordingly. Do try to find proper Italian sausages, though, as they are full of flavour from garlic, wine and sometimes fennel seeds and don’t contain rusk. Serve this with dried or fresh long pasta.
425 g (15 oz) Italian sausages
325 g (11½ oz) pork spare ribs
425 g (15 oz) pork belly, cut into
3 cm (1¼ in) cubes
425 g (15 oz) stewing beef, cut into
8 cm (3¼ in) chunks
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 white or brown onions, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly
2 bay leaves
1 sprig of rosemary
salt and freshly ground black pepper
300 ml (10 fl oz/1¼ cups) white or
4 tablespoons tomato purée
1.2 kg (2 lb 10 oz) tinned whole tomatoes,
1 litre (34 fl oz/4¼ cups) chicken, meat
or vegetable stock, or hot water
6 potatoes (approximately 1 kg/2 lb 3 oz),
peeled and cut in half
200 g (7 oz/1⅓ cups) peas, frozen or
Brown the meat in batches in the oil in a large casserole dish over a medium heat, setting it aside in a large bowl when done. Add the onions to the pan in the remaining oil with the garlic, bay leaves, rosemary and seasoning and cook over a gentle heat to soften. It should take 7-10 minutes. Add the meat back into the pan with the wine and bring to the boil. Allow to reduce for few minutes. Add the tomato purée, tomatoes and stock and stir to combine.
Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and allow to cook slowly for 4–5 hours. The time will depend upon the cut of meat and the size. You need to cook it until the meat falls easily from the bones. Add the potatoes after around 4 hours and continue to cook until they are cooked through. Add the peas, if using, towards the end of the cooking time. Cook for 15 minutes if using frozen peas and 30 minutes if using fresh ones. Taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary.
Eat the stew as it is or ladle off most of the sauce and serve it with pasta, followed by the meat and potatoes as a main course served with the Purple Sprouting Broccoli.
You can purchase signed copies of ‘Sicily – Recipes from an Italian Island’ here. It’s published by Hardie Grant and the beautiful photography is by the talented Helen Cathcart.