This Weekend’s Food Projects- The perfect ragu

In our house, weekends are for cooking. Usually my weekends are spent in my kitchen, streaming a tv show of choice (right now it’s Supernatural), and cooking up a storm. Ross is often in the background, offering his thoughts on the current plot twists, or helpfully putting things away before I use them. This weekend was no different. Cold weekend+time change= comfort food.

So.Much.Cooking. I daydreamed all week about it. I think being away last week amped up my need to be at home and in my kitchen.

In addition to our regular food chores (which always includes breakfast for the upcoming week, and lunch for both Ross and me) we decided to do a food project on Saturday, and a food project on Sunday. When you are starving on Friday night and menu planning, you think anything is possible. Delusion empowers you to overreach. Luckily for me the results were delicious, and I managed to hang on to my sanity, but it was a close call.

Saturday night: Sausage Ragu by Anne Burrell

We just had to with this one. I wanted pasta. I wanted it to be delicious. I wanted something I knew would deliver. This.is.amazing. It’s rich, it’s flavorful, it’s perfection in a bowl. The hardest part of this recipe is the time. You have to give everything time to brown properly in order to maximize flavor.

All the bits and pieces
All the bits and pieces

What I really like about this recipe is that the base of the ragu is tomato paste. The end product ends up so flavorful and rich that I am going to replicate the technique using a different ingredients.

If precise knife work isn’t your thing, this is a great recipe to try. You do have to roughly chop up the bits, but you whack everything in a food processor to get a coarse paste.

the.smells.
the.smells.

This is where the magic is made. Browning all the bits. Getting all the flavor. Worth the time and effort. Also- season well here. Add a big pinch of salt. Pull that water out of the veggies. You want the seasoning to start immediately.

Just getting started.
Just getting started.
So much flavor.
So much flavor.

Add the tomato paste. Brown it. Add the wine. Evaporate it. Add the sausage. Brown it. Add the herbs. Layer by layer by layer.

Let it go. 3 hours. I don’t know exactly what to call it, except magic.

It already looks great, and we aren't even close to being done.
It already looks great, and we aren’t even close to being done.

The smells that come from this pot are intoxicating. It smells like happiness.

photo 24

Three hours later and you can see how much it has reduced. The consistency is now much more thick and smooth. I skimmed a small pinch bowl’s worth of fat from the top as it’s cooked. Take that fat out. If you leave it in the sauce, it will taste too oily.

One other important note about this recipe, is that it needs to be tasted throughout. After the sausage is browned and you add water (per the instructions) and it boils for a bit, taste the sauce. You want it to be perfectly seasoned. The tomato paste and sausage have salt already, but the veggies, water and wine do not. If your sauce is bland at the beginning, it will stay bland. Your finished sauce should be slightly salty, as it will taste perfect when tossed with pasta, or poured over polenta.

 

I chose rigatoni for serving- I find it holds sauce brilliantly. Pasta is always best when it cooks with the sauce after boiling, so I pull a measuring cup of pasta water in case the sauce needs thinned (I almost never use it, but I never want to be caught without), drain the pot, add the noodles back to the pot, then add 2-3 ladles of sauce in with the noodles. Keep it over low heat for another 2 min or so and the noodles soak up that sauce. Since Ross and I like our pasta saucy, I almost always add another layer of sauce when I served it. And please, do yourself a huge favor and SALT THE PASTA WATER. a lot. Not just a few shakes. 3-4 huge pinches. If you have perfectly seasoned sauce, and you put bland pasta under it, your sauce will taste like nothing. I’ve learned this the hard way. So, taste your pasta water if in doubt. It should taste salty like sea water.

This is by far and away the best ragu I’ve ever eaten. I topped it with a big of romano cheese, and it was perfection. The recipe makes TONS and we have leftovers like crazy. I portion and freeze the sauce for quick weeknight meals on the fly.

It took all my willpower to pause long enough to take this pic
It took all my willpower to pause long enough to take this pic

This was the best way to kick off November. The recipe requires patience, but the result (and subsequent food coma) is worth it.

I put sweatpants on BEFORE eating. Makes breathing easier when I'm so full!
I put sweatpants on BEFORE eating. Makes breathing easier when I’m so full!

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