Ragu Bolognese

What do you do when you have a lot of ground beef in your freezer?

You get creative! It just so happens that this colder weather we’ve been having has made me crave Italian food – the warm, comforting kind that could put you to sleep after a bowl (or two). Beef ragu it is.

Traditional ragu/bolognese makers: I know – usually there is ground pork and/or veal. I would love to use that, but I have a ton of ground beef in my freezer, so we are going to go for an Americanized version here.

I looked up a few recipes, and just kind of made an amalgam of them. A lot of people recomment Marcella Hazan’s bolognese sauce, but I wanted something a bit easier (ingredient-wise).
I added lots of onions (ok, I used up onion halves I had in the fridge – economical!) and once they were soft, I added diced carrots. In retrospect, I would dice these carrots up more, as they were still in chunk form (albeit soft chunks) in the final sauce.

Albany John recommended cooking the ground beef in a separate pan (since our ground beef looks especially fatty and marbled – didn’t want an overly greasy sauce), but it didn’t actually give off a lot of fat, so I just plunked it in with the rest of the onions, carrots and garlic after browning a few minutes. Cook it fully.
Once it’s all fully cooked, add a cup of milk. Then let it cook off until it’s absorbed completely by the meat. I picked up that bit of advice from Ms. Hazan’s recipe. It called for cream/half-and-half, or whole milk, but all I had was skim. Trust me, you’d never know it by the final result. Deeee-lish.
I was skeptical about the meat absorbing the milk, but it did! Do the same thing with wine. I had Big Foot Cabernet Sauvignon on hand, which I thought was a bit harsh. Then again, I don’t know red wine at all and prefer Lake Country red (which tastes like red wine with a ton of sugar), sangrias, Arbor Mist, and Riunite. I think they taste phenomenal, but after the first time I slug over with a box, I don’t get a lot of repeat requests to bring the vino. I tend to think all other reds taste like they were brewed with an old tire, but Albany John tells me that it’s how reds normally taste and I’m weird.
Actually, this might taste nicely with a white instead. I also prefer my sweet white wines, but can tolerate less sweet ones and have a slightly more diverse selection when it comes to those. That is to say, I buy some whites in bottle-form, although I found a nice dry Riesling at Empire Wine in a box, and it was not too shabby!

After you babble on about wines you know nothing about, dump in a ton of diced/crushed tomatoes. Lots. Wait until you see it bubble a bit, and then…

Put your splatter guard on top of the dish. Lower the heat so the flame is barely on, and the sauce bubbles every few seconds, and very lightly at that.

After 2 to 2.5 (or more) hours, you’ll have a nicely reduced ragu.

Top some pasta with your ragu, and liberally slather with parmesan cheese. You can totally slather cheese, and it’s more than fine if you prefer those canned versions of dry parmesan/romano 😉 I tend to call those versions “Par-meeeeesan” since it’s much more different than the real deal seen above, but oh-so-good and salty (with a hint of cheese).

Although this “only” uses one pound of beef, be prepared for a lot of ragu. We froze some and saved it for eating later in the month. Albany John also mentioned something about how people probably shouldn’t eat ragu more than once a day, but since it was so good, it was worth eating for lunch and dinner. This has lasted our two-family home for many meals, so it is well worth making. The approximate cost of this sauce was around $8.50-9, not too shabby for something that lasted us so many meals. This ragu definitely stretches one lb of meat over many meals and is worth making over and over again.

P.S. – Our meat is from Eagle Bridge Farms. I think this might be their website, but I’m not really sure… it seems like it probably is.

Albany Jane’s Ragu

.5 yellow onion, diced
.5 red onion, diced
1-2 med carrots, diced finely
~ 1 lb ground beef
2 28 oz cans crushed tomatoes
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
2-4 cloves garlic
oregano, parsley, thyme, etc seasonings
2/3 c wine (cabernet sauvignon)
1 c milk

Cook diced onions until barely translucent, add garlic and carrots. Cook a few minutes more, until onions are all translucent.
Add ground beef, cook well until browned and cooked. Sprinkle w/kosher salt.
Add milk, mix until milk is completely absorbed by beef and none left in pan.
Add wine, mix until completely absorbed by beef.
Pour in cans of tomato
Season with herbs

Cook 2+ hours on a lazy simmer, stirring every 20 minutes.

  1. Mr. Dave said:

    You should never worry about substituting what you have on hand for what is in a recipe, that is the essence of good cookery, especially Italian cooking. Slavish attention to recipes is where many home cooks go down very bad and un-tasty roads.

  2. Glenna said:

    I agree. Using what you have on hand is the mark of a good chef.Seriously, I’ve known people who will go to the store for one ingredient when they have something easily substitutable (is that a word?) right on hand and never realize it. Your ragu looks divine. Man, now I’m in the mood for Italian. Too bad we’re going out for Mexican. Drat! 🙂

  3. Grace said:

    i think your sauce is simply beautiful. frankly, i’d prefer beef to pork and veal. i guess i’m truly american. 🙂

  4. llcwine said:

    Your ragu looked so good….I pasta and meatballs last night….and they may have been my best meatballs ever….and no, I don’t follow a recipe for them. I just use what I have in the house…substitute dried herbs if I don’t have fresh…etc….I do think it helped to get the meat fresh from Roma Prime Meats…they had just ground it and were putting it in the display case as I walked in. Thanks Jane, you inspired me and continue to do so all the time.

  5. Ragu it is. Thanks for the idea, I’ve been a bit uninspired lately.

  6. mr dave – phew, yea, I am not so good with the not following recipes to the nth degree.glenna – I hope your Mexican was good!grace – you know, it was really good, but now I wonder what it’s like with the extra meat in it. Can I tell the diff?llcwine – oooh meatballs! Maybe I’ll try and tackle that next. Celina – yum yum! post about it!

  7. huh. i thought i left a comment here last night. damn oxycodone! yr bolognese looked perfect for the cold weather

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