Growing up, my family had a large garden that was overflowing with ripe, red tomatoes every July. We would start collecting them the first week of July and freeze them until we had enough to make huge batches of spaghetti sauce that we would then can and eat long into the following spring. It was a massive effort that involved more clean up than cooking, and, to be honest, never really resulted in mind-blowingly amazing sauce. It was good, but always needed some sprucing up when it came time to make dinner. After 100s of hours of spaghetti sauce making, I have happily given away any responsibility for making ragu or marinara sauce to Tom, who enjoys making it on his days off. I get to sit on the couch with the dog and a glass of wine watching re-runs of Chopped while serving as Tom’s taste tester. It really is the perfect set up.
Two weeks ago, though, I was put back in my old spaghetti making shoes when Tom was on a week’s worth of day shifts and had asked me to make ragù alla bolognese sauce for him to come home to one night that week. Sure, it had been over a decade since I’d made anything other than my simple arrabiata sauce, but between muscle memory and a set of several tasting spoons, I knew I could come up with something that would make my mom proud.
Ragùes are frequently served over spaghetti noodles or other sturdy pastas, like rigatoni, that do a great job of holding the thick meaty sauce. I, however, like to serve mine with bucatini pasta, which resembles a very thick spaghetti noodle with a whole through the center. This is not a very common pasta shape, although I can usually find it at Wegmans.
Ragù alla Emilie
Approximately 6 servings
4 cloves of garlic
1 medium onion, chopped
½ cup chopped carrots
½ cup chopped celery
4oz package chopped Pancetta
½ lb sweet Italian chicken sausage
½ lb hot Italian chicken sausage
1 cup chopped mushrooms
1 cup red wine
1 cup beef broth
2 28oz cans crushed tomatoes
14oz can diced fire roasted tomatoes
salt & pepper
ground cinnamon (optional)
red pepper flakes (optional)
1) Add about 3 tablespoons olive oil to a large, heavy bottomed pot or Dutch oven, and heat over medium-high heat until it begins to shimmer. Add carrots, celery, garlic, and onion to the pot and sauté for about 8 minutes, stirring frequently.
2) Add the pancetta to the pot and cook for 5 minutes until the fat begins to render out of the meat. While the pancetta cooks, remove the casings from the turkey or chicken sausage and break up the meat some.
3) Put the ground sausage into the pot and begin cooking through. Stir frequently and aggressively so that you break up the meat into small crumbles. Cook poultry until you no longer see pink and the meat is in small crumbles.
4) Add the mushrooms, red wine, and beef broth and bring to a simmer.
4) Open the 3 cans of tomatoes and pour them all into the pot. Stir well and bring to a low simmer.
5) Add seasonings and spices. I use about 3 tablespoons of dried Italian seasoning total, but I add it gradually, tasting as I go; start with about 1 tablespoon of Italian seasoning and about 3 teaspoons pepper. Let simmer on the stove for about 20 to 30 minutes and taste the sauce. Add more seasonings and pepper if desired. At this point I start adding salt a little at a time and if the sauce tastes overly acidic I add a dash of cinnamon, which helps cut the acidity. I also like to add a bit of crushed red pepper, but this is definitely a personal choice.
6) Continue to simmer the sauce for 1 hour, until it has reduced into a rich thick sauce.
7) Serve over al dente pasta with a sprinkle of Parmesan.