If you live in the UK and think of Ragu, a certain commercial tomato based pasta sauce available everywhere probably comes to mind. Those marketing boys did well when they managed to register that name.
Ragu is a classic Italian tomato based sauce which will be being made in every house in every town in Italy. And each town or household will boast there own method which will no doubt make their region's the best in the world.
There is nothing simpler than making your own pasta sauce and it is a whole lot tastier and cheaper than buying the commercial jars. An onion and garlic softened in olive oil, a cheap tin of tomatoes or a handful of fresh chopped tomatoes when the season is here, a pinch of oregano and a splash of red wine or balsamic vinegar is all you need. Take that basic concept and experiment to your heart's desire. That's what simple cooking should be all about.
If I'm not in a rush, I like to slowly cook lamb in a ragu with additional ingredients such as chilli, juniper, sun dried tomatoes and orange peel, the latter dispensing a subtle citrus to the sauce. It may not be authentic but neither is a certain bottled sauce we all know and buy in our droves. Do yourself a favour and attempt your own some time.
Slow Cooked Lamb Ragu
1 onion, chopped
2 sticks of celery, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 cloves of garlic, sliced
2 tbsp olive oil
3 juniper berries, crushed
1 whole dried chilli or a pinch of chilli flakes
2 tbsp tomato purée
500g lamb shoulder, cubed
2 tins tomatoes
A handful of sun dried tomatoes, sliced
1 glass of white wine
1 tbsp dried oregano
2 bay leaves
A slice of pared orange peel
1 tbsp Balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper
1 - Pre-heat the oven to 160C, GM3.
2 - Heat the olive oil in a flame-proof casserole dish, or make this in a large pan and add to the casserole dish later.
3 - Add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic and cook until softened to make a 'soffrito'. Stir in the juniper, chilli and tomato purée and cook for 1 minute.
4 - Add the lamb and quickly brown then add the remaining ingredients except the seasoning. Bring to the boil, cover and place in the oven for 2 hours.
5 - Check every 30 minutes to ensure it isn't cooking dry. If it is, stir in a glass of water.
6 - When cooked, remove the bay, whole chilli and orange peel. Taste for seasoning and serve with your choice of pasta and Parmesan cheese.