One quiet Friday afternoon at work my mind wandered to dinner and what I might have. I knew there was a small pack of beef mince and some fresh tagliatelle in my fridge. I had a craving for ragù but something darker, richer and drier (stay with me here) than the tomato-rich bolognese I usually make. The kind of meat sauce that clings to pasta with no watery tomato juice collecting at the bottom of the plate. More brown than red. I started mentally rifling through my kitchen cupboards and fridge for ingredients that would transform my ragù: porcini mushrooms, beef stock cubes, red wine, Parmesan, maybe some balsamic vinegar and definitely pork. I don’t always use beef and pork together but this is an indulgent recipe so I’ve included it.
I discovered the pork-beef combination after trying M&S’s lasagne al forno, which I almost didn’t buy as it’s quite a bit smaller and more expensive than their standard lasagne. I'm glad I did as the difference between them is like night and day and when I compared the ingredients I noticed that the al forno lasagne included pork. That’s all it took to convince me that pork and beef go hand in hand and that pork should have a place in my ragù.
If you’re missing an ingredient like dried porcini, beef stock, or pork, it doesn’t matter but if you can include them all then the ragù will be better for it. I should say that this is by no means an authentic recipe (my brother recommends Bon Appetit’s Classic Ragù if that’s what you’re after), it’s just some of my favourite savoury things combined with beef and eaten with pasta; it’s my ultimate comfort food dish.
- 1 red onion, diced
- 1 carrot, peeled and finely diced
- 1 stick celery, finely diced
- 2-3 garlic cloves, chopped
- 10g dried porcini mushrooms
- 2 rashers bacon (or around 60g pancetta)
- 125ml red wine
- ½ beef stock cube
- 250g beef mince (I use 5% fat)
- 200g chopped tomatoes
- ½ tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
- 6 chestnut mushrooms, sliced (optional)
- salt and pepper
- a small handful of basil leaves
- Parmesan cheese (to grate)
- 500g fresh pasta (or 400g dried, e.g. tagliatelle, pappardelle or spaghetti)
- Place a medium saucepan over a medium to high heat and fill and boil your kettle.
- Add a diced red onion, a diced carrot and a stick of diced celery to the saucepan and fry for 5-10 minutes then add 2-3 chopped garlic cloves. Fry until the vegetables start to colour.
- While the vegetables are softening in the saucepan, add 10g of dried porcini mushrooms to a small cup or jug and pour in 150ml of boiled water. Give the mushrooms a stir then set to one side.
- Snip in two rashers of bacon, or around 60g of pancetta and fry until the pork is no longer translucent.
- Add 125ml of red wine to the saucepan and allow to bubble for a few minutes then crush in half a beef stock cube.
- Add 250g of beef mince to the pan, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, and fry for around 5 minutes until the beef loses its rawness.
- At this stage I use scissors to snip the porcini mushrooms into smaller pieces while still in their liquid (leave them whole if you prefer) then scoop them out with a fork and add them to the saucepan. Very slowly and carefully pour the mushroom liquid into the pan, leaving the last bit as it’ll be gritty and you don’t want that in your ragù.
- Add 200g of chopped tomatoes to the pan along with ½ teaspoon of dried oregano and a teaspoon of balsamic vinegar.
- If I'm using chestnut mushrooms, I'll add them now, but bear in mind that they'll release water into the ragù so you'll need to add another ten minutes or so to the cooking time.
- Simmer for at least 15 minutes (longer if you've added chestnut mushrooms) until the sauce has thickened and most of the water has evaporated.
- Before seasoning with salt and black pepper, taste the ragù. I usually don’t need to add salt because of the beef stock cube.
- Cook 500g of fresh pasta or 400g of dried pasta according to the instructions on the packet but reduce the cooking time by a minute or two.
- Drain the pasta and add it to the ragù. Cook for a minute to allow the pasta to absorb any remaining liquid then divide between four plates, tear over the basil leaves and top with grated Parmesan cheese.