This basic fresh ragu, made delicious with wine, vegetables and fresh herbs, is a perfect base from which to build on by adding summer vegetables.
Here’s a story that any parent will understand.
We have food in our house, copious amounts of the stuff. Our pantry is stocked with all kinds of breads and at least a half dozen boxes of various kinds of cereal. There are cold cuts in the fridge, nestled alongside plastic containers of assorted leftovers. Like I said, there is plenty of food to eat at home.
So, yesterday when I was hungry, I grabbed one of those Tupperware-type tubs and heated the remains of this spaghetti for a late lunch. After a quick spin in the technological wonder called the microwave, I was settled comfortably with my bowl and fork.
Friends, it was like magic. No sooner had my backside touched the chair than a little face appeared in front of me. A starved, pleading, desperate face.
I gazed at my beloved daughter for a minute, then down at my lunch and then lovingly told my girl, ‘Get your own lunch, this is mine.’
Of course, as you well know, that little bottom lip immediately jutted out in a pout most actors would die to be able to recreate. As you also know, my spaghetti and I were not meant to be together. I handed my bowl to Sophie and headed back to the kitchen in search of something else.
The hardest part of this process is the knife work. Since the sauce begins with the classic mirepoix (a fancy French culinary way of saying chopped onion, carrots and celery), all minced, it takes a bit of time to do.
Once the vegetables are all minced up, however, all that’s left is to add ingredients to the saucepan and stir the contents occasionally.
I did use fresh basil and sage and about a quarter teaspoon of nutmeg, freshly grated from a seed.
Both Doug and I enjoyed this very much. We both thought that my classic spaghetti bolognese is better, but this was very good. The mirepoix and wine add good flavor and the ragu has excellent body and thickness.
When this was originally served for dinner, Sophie, on the other hand, declared that she didn’t like it. She thought that it was too ‘tomatoey’ and there wasn’t enough meat. And that, my friends, is why I was less than willing to share my leftovers when she asked for them.
I’m not sure what changed her mind, but Sophie did devour the spaghetti and ragu the next day, claiming that it was delicious and proving the fact that some foods are even better when the flavors have a chance to meld. I had to agree. It was even better the day after I made it.
What I’d Do Different Next Time
- ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil, preferably Tuscan
- 1 medium onion, minced
- 2 carrots, trimmed and minced
- 2 celery ribs, strings removed, minced
- ¼ cup finely chopped basil or 1 tablespoon dried
- 2 fresh sage and 2 bay leaves or 1 teaspoon each of dried
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 1 cup white wine
- 1 35-ounce can plum tomatoes, chopped, with juice
- Good pinch of nutmeg
- Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- Heat the oil in a large, heavy saucepan. Sauté the onions, carrots, celery, basil, sage and bay leaves over medium heat, uncovered, stirring frequently until soft, approximately 8-10 minutes.
- Add the garlic and cook 30 seconds longer.
- Add the beef, breaking it up with a wooden spoon. Cook over medium heat, uncovered, until the meat browns, approximately 6-7 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Add the wine and simmer until it cooks off, five minutes.
- Add the tomatoes and their juices, then raise the heat and bring the ragu to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover the sauce pan and simmer the ragu for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Before serving, add the nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste.