Monday, February 18, 2008

Spaghetti in Meat sauce (Ragu) with Fresh Red Peppers

This recipe is adapted from the recipe I use for Tagliatelle alla Bolognese; most of us are familiar with "Spaghetti Bolognese". But Bolognese may well be a misnomer at times, and you might not find it on many menus in Italy - the country of it's origin.

And in Bologna itself, the province from which this dish gets it's name, meat sauce is "never served over spaghetti" and "the meat used is ground beef.Period."
Thus speaks that grand lady of Italian cooking - Marcella Hazan. She of the quick scorn for Americanized versions of "Italian cooking" and probably the one who taught many non Italians the traditional way of cooking Italian cuisine, through her very popular book "The Classic Italian Cookbook" and more recently "The Essentials of ClassicItalian Cooking"

The base of this dish is meat sauce - spaghetti or any other pasta can be used with the meat sauce which is called ragu.
Ragu refers to any meat sauce which is cooked long and slowly, simmering till the meat is tender and the sauce is imbued with the flavours of the meat cooked in it - making the sauce rich and satisfying.

The Italian word ragu originates from the French word "ragout" which means "stew". And even more interesting, "ragout" in turn comes from the French verb "ragouter" -"to stimulate the appetite".

So, a meat sauce cooked in the Bolognese style would be one with just enough tomato to give it a slightly sweet flavour, not the meatbits-drowned-in-tomato-sauce-version, which is what one sometime gets.

It is also characterised by milk being added to the meat to reduce the acidic content of tomatoes which come later, and definitely by being simmered for "a long long time"

I have been following a recipe for sometime now, it is in my book of handwritten recipes and dates back to the era when I didn't think it necessary to jot down where I got it from. But pretty much produced some really nice Bolognese ragu over the years. Except for the beef. *ahem*
I have even used chicken mince instead of lamb at times.

So, this time since it was just for the two of us (felt bad calling the delivery guy for a small quantity for this mutton dish,so ordered a quarter kilo of mince as well ...*sigh*), I decided to try something different.

I put in cooked Kidney beans (rajma) which I then cooked again with the mince.

Fresh red chillies and peppers in the sauce boosted the flavour. I did add some chilli powder and a touch of cumin since the kidney beans,while giving the sauce great body, tends to temper down the taste.

Together the fresh chillies, peppers and the rajma made a lot of difference to this sauce and it was very interesting.

I am posting the original recipe which I normally use and the changes I made are in brackets.

Tagliatelle with Bolognese sauce

Pasta - 300 gm tagliatelle (I used spaghetti)

Ragu or meat sauce:

1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp butter

Onions 2 medium - finely chopped
Celery - 1 cup finely diced (didn't have any on hand so omitted it)
Carrots - 1 cup diced (I used half a cup of carrots and added 1 big fresh red chilly sliced and I small red pepper deseeded and diced)
Mutton mince - 200 gm
Milk - 1 cup
Marjoram - 1 tbsp dried (I used dried thyme)
1 bay leaf
pinch of grated nutmeg
Tomatoes - 250gm,blanched,skinned and chopped finely (I used six medium tomatoes and omitted the puree)
Tomato puree - 2 tbsp
White wine - 1 cup (this could be omitted)

Freshly ground black pepper
salt to taste
1 cup kidney beans soaked overnight and then cooked till tender (they shouldn't be overcooked) and 1 clove of minced garlic were other additions to this recipe.

1. Heat the olive oil and butter in a heavy bottomed pan, and chopped onions and fry till it changes colour.
2. Add celery and carrots (and the garlic,chopped chilli and peppers) and fry for another 2 minutes.
3. Stir in the mince,some salt and pepper and continue cooking till the meat loses its raw colour, stirring constantly till the mince is free of lumps. (add the cooked kidney beans at this stage)
4. Mix in the milk and let it simmer till the liquid evaporates, stirring frequently. Add the wine next and simmer again till it also evaporates.
5. Add the bay leaf, nutmeg, herbs, chopped tomatoes, puree,salt and simmer gently for about an hour and a half till the meat is tender, the fat separates from the sauce and the mixture has no water but is a thick sauce. ( I have tried pressure cooking the mince and then simmering it in the sauce and that just doesn't give the same taste as cooking the mince in the sauce.)
In the initial stages, you might have to keep adding water a bit at a time to prevent it from sticking, that's ok.
6. Adjust the salt, add freshly crushed pepper and mix well.

15 minutes before serving, bring water to boil for pasta with a tsp of olive oil and cook the pasta in it till tender. Drain and toss in a tsp of olive oil and season with salt and freshly crushed pepper.

Plate the pasta into 3-4 portions and ladle the ragu over the pasta. Serve warm.

This dish joins Presto Pasta Nights hosted by Ruth every week over at Once upon a Feast....this event is fast approaching it's first birthday!!!


Asha said...

My kids would love that Miri, looks out of this World!:))

Happy cook said...

I love Bolognese sauce.
It is one of my favourite sauce for pasta. When i make them i add half liter of red wine too

Jaya said...

Pasta sauce and rajma is new combo for me ,but it looks so appetizing ...
hugs and smiles

Homecooked said...

Wow...this looks yummy!!! We love spagheeti with meatballs.Will have to try this dish.Thanks.

Passionate baker...& beyond said...

This looks great Miri...& I loved reading all about it. Pictures are very enticing too!!

Sagari said...

It looks soooo comforting miri

Miri said...

Thanks Asha, Jaya, homecooked, Sagari and Deeba :)

Ruth Daniels said...

Thanks for the lesson and the delicious ragu! Most of all, thanks for sharing with Presto Pasta Nights.

Seena said...

What lovely dish!
Thanks Miri for visiting my blog, am going to add you in food bloggers list..Hope to see you again..