Stars have aligned.
The current subject of Captain Chatterbox’s weekly “public speaking” homework exercise is “My Favourite Food”.
When I asked him what his favourite food is, he (somewhat annoyingly as I do 99% of the cooking but, I have to admit, understandably) replied “Dad’s ragu!” without hesitation.
The Husband loves to cook and is very good at it. He just rarely gets the opportunity due to that intrusive inconvenience called a Very Successful Career Which Requires Long Hours and Frequent Travel. Once in a while he is overcome by an uncontrollable urge to make an enormous pot of ragu using a traditional recipe he has tweaked and refined to oozing perfection. A double batch ensures we can gorge ourselves immediately and freeze the rest in reassuring portions. A sense of panic always accompanies the defrosting of the last of these, and the next Ragu Day is scheduled.
That day is here.
Captain Chatterbox is standing on a chair in front of the stove next to his dad, learning a useful recipe and (hopefully) absorbing extra material for his speech.
The house is warm and smells wonderful, a cosy contrast to the wet and woeful weather.
It has just ticked over to the afternoon and no-one is out of their pyjamas.
What a great day …
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60g butter – 1 onion, finely chopped – 1 carrot, finely chopped – 1 celery stalk, finely chopped – 150g pancetta or bacon, finely chopped (make sure you use the lovely fat) – 220g beef mince – 220g pork mince (we just use a veal/pork mince mix) – 2 oregano sprigs, chopped – pinch of nutmeg – 125ml dry white wine – 215ml milk – 400g tin chopped tomatoes – 250ml beef stock.
Heat the butter in a saucepan and add the onion, carrot, celery and pancetta. Cook over moderate heat for 6-8 minutes, stirring once in a while.
Add the mince and oregano. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Cook for about five minutes until the mince has changed colour but not browned.
Pour in the wine and cook on high for a few minutes until it has been absorbed. Stir in 125ml of milk and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and half the stock, partially cover the saucepan, and leave it to simmer very gently for 3 hours, adding more stock as needed to ensure it remains moist (yes, I said it).
Stir through the remaining milk about 5 minutes before you serve the sauce topped with parmesan and over your pasta of choice, though I must urge you in the strongest possible terms to use pappardelle. It has the perfect texture and width for this sauce AND, best of all, derives its name from the Italian word “pappare”, which means in a most satisfyingly apt way “to eat hungrily”.