Today I was preparing and cooking all day long. Some things cooked on my stovetop and some cooked in my kiln. The tastier of the two was Ragu Bolognese, from my Cooking Italy group. Cooking Italy is a wonderful group of ladies who have gathered to make several recipes each month from Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. I highly recommend you buy the book, as there is wonderful, detailed instruction, but if you would like to take a peek at the recipe, Angela over at Spinach Tiger, has the recipe and group blog roll posted here.
I have been cooking from Ms. Hazan’s book The Classic Italian Cook Book for close to three decades now; her Ragu Bolognese is a well-loved favorite of my family. But this time I tried something new. First, I started out the same. I heated the oil (I use olive oil) and butter in a heavy Le Creuset pot. Then I added the onion – watch it so it doesn’t burn – it should just be translucent. Although between you and me, if it browns slightly because you are busy chopping carrots and celery, don’t worry about it. After cooking the carrots and celery for a couple of minutes, add the meat. Break it up with a wooden spoon and keep stirring to mix it in with the vegetables. You don’t want any big lumps of meat. Cook until it just loses the pinkness and is a little gray, almost glassy looking. Important – do not let the meat brown! Then, the milk is added and reduced, followed by the wine.
Once the wine is reduced, the tomatoes are added. Here’s something to remember. I started cooking at about 3:00 pm. It wasn’t until about 5:30 that I added the tomatoes. It takes a long time to simmer first the milk and then the wine down to nothing, especially if you multiply the recipe. Angela’s recipe is double Ms. Hazan’s. I made a triple batch, knowing most would wind up in the freezer – it reheats beautifully. The recipe takes a lot of time to cook, so it is well worth making multiples of the recipe.
Now the sauce is left at a very slow simmer for 3-4 hours. HERE is where I did something different. In her post, Angela mentioned how to get a crock pot involved. I thought that was a great idea. I know what the sauce is supposed to taste like when cooked traditionally, so I would know if the crock pot altered the taste to any appreciable degree. After adding the tomatoes, I put the sauce in my crock pot, uncovered, on high. I stirred it whenever I passed by.
I started my ragu very late in the day, forgetting about the two hours needed to reduce the milk and wine. I have now noted that in my cook book! So after two hours in the crock pot, I decided it was time to eat and it would be good enough. I did not have time to make fresh pasta this time, but had store bought fresh fettuccine. We ate the ragu at about 7:30 pm and it WAS good enough. The sauce on the plate was a teensy bit watery, so it does really need the 3-4 hours simmering time. I let the remaining sauce simmer in the crock pot for another two hours until it was perfect. Below is what our dinner looked like before we devoured it. The ragu was delicious, as usual. Don’t be afraid of the hours it takes to cook – the recipe is well worth it! Delizioso!
Oh – I did mention that I was preparing and cooking TWO things today. Here is what came out of the studio “oven”:
More about those in another post!