Clay's Kitchen : Ricette Italiane (Italian Recipes)

Ricette Italiane (Italian Recipes)

© Copyright 1995-2020, Clay Irving <>, Manhattan Beach, CA USA

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Ragù alla Contadina

Recipe from: Luca Roncadi

This ragù is homey and suave at the same time, with a pleasing lightness. Milk is its secret ingredient, mellowing, tenderizing and sweetening the ragù. Sunday dinners throughout Emilia-Romagna's countryside, especially in Modena and Romagna, begin with tagliatelle or maccheroni tossed with some variation of this ragù. Not only is it one of my favorite recipes, it is a fine example of the home-style ragùs prepared with a variety of meats.

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 ounces pancetta, finely chopped
1 medium onion, minced
1 medium stalk celery with leaves, minced
1 small carrot, minced
4 ounces boneless veal shoulder or round
4 ounces boneless pork loin, trimmed of fat, or 4 ounces mild Italian sausage made without fennel
8 ounces beef skirt steak, hanging tender, or boneless chuck blade or chuck center cut, in order of preference
1 ounce thinly sliced Prosciutto di Parma
⅔ cup dry red wine
1 ½ cups poultry or meat stock, or ⅔ cup meat essences, or 1 ½ cups quick stock, in order of preference
2 cups milk
3 canned plum tomatoes, drained
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

How to do

Working Ahead:
The ragù can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate. It also freezes well up to 1 month. Skim the fat from the ragù before using it.

Browning the ragù Base:
Heat the olive oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium high heat. (Have a 4 to 5 quart saucepan handy to use once browning is completed.) Add the pancetta and minced vegetables and sauté, stirring frequently with a wooden spatula, 10 minutes, or until the onions barely begin to color. Coarsely grind all the meats together, including the prosciutto, in a food processor or meat grinder. Stir into the pan and slowly brown over medium heat. First the meats will give off liquid and turn dull gray, but as the liquid evaporates, browning will begin. Stir often, scooping under the meats with the wooden spatula. Protect the brown glaze forming on the bottom of the pan by turning the heat down. Cook 15 minutes, or until the meats are a deep brown. Turn the contents of the skillet into a strainer and shake out the fat. Turn them into the 4 to 5 quart saucepan and set over medium heat.

Reducing and Simmering:
Add the wine to the skillet, lowering the heat so the sauce bubbles quietly. Stir occasionally until the wine has reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Scrape up the brown glaze as the wine bubbles. Then pour the reduced wine into the saucepan and set the skillet aside. If you are using stock, stir ½ cup into the saucepan and let it bubble slowly, 10 minutes, or until totally evaporated. Repeat with another ½ cup stock. Stir in the last ½ cup stock along with the milk. (If using Meat Essences, add it and the milk to the browned meats, and do not boil it off.) Adjust heat so the liquid bubbles very slowly. Partially cover the pot, and cook 1 hour. Stir frequently to check for sticking.

Add the tomatoes, crushing them as they go into the pot. Cook, uncovered, at a very slow bubble another 45 minutes, or until the sauce resembles a thick, meaty stew. Season with salt and pepper.

Toss with freshly cooked pasta and serve immediately. Pass freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

Wine Suggestions:
A red Bresciano Chiaretto from Lombardy's Riviera del Garda, Sicily's Cerasuolo di Vittoria, or Apulia's velvety, full Salice Salentino Rosso.

Offer as a main dish after Fresh Pears with Parmigiano-Reggiano and balsamic vinegar. Follow with Salad of Mixed Greens and Fennel, and Home-Style Jam Cake. Serve in small quantities as a first course before Balsamic Roast Chicken, Wine-Basted Rabbiti, or a lighter dish of Grilled Winter Endives. End the meal with Meringues of the Dark Lake and espresso.

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