There is for sure one stereotype about Italians: la pasta. Another certainty is that I don’t eat gli spaghetti with meatballs, feeling smitten and furry in the role of either the Lady or the Tramp.
We eat pasta constantly, at any hour, in a varied array of shapes and textures, dressed by a multifarious palette of sauces (sughi).
That, I have to say, is very true. But at least we don’t shovel in our mouths a fair (and sad) amount of junk food to (overly) satisfy our daily intake.
Personally, I eat pasta even twice a day, if I happen to be in a hurry and I have little time to cook, coddle, simmer and devise some tantalizing delicacy.
First of all, pasta should not be overcooked, sticky, slimy and dressed with some ketchup. If you’d like to add a red touch onto it, go for the real thing, also known as a simple, but delicious, tomato sauce and basil sugo. There are so many easy ways to prepare a quick, delicious piatto di pasta without slaving away in the kitchen for hours, and many more tips to prepare an appetizing ragù. Here below I’ll explain you how I prepare my own ragù, that I christened ‘radical’ since it is made in a less-onerous fashion without losing its taste and appeal.
The term ragù stands for what in North America is labeled as Bolognese sauce. Any Italian knows what you are talking about if you use the word ragù hence there is no need to add the geopolitical specification. Like an espresso is simply a coffee – un caffè, not an actual espresso (or expresso, if we like to butcher it thoroughly), served and drunk at a family table, as it happens in Guadagnino’s ‘Call me by your name’, a film that clearly caters to an international, non-Italian audience, but that’s another story…
The ragù is believed to be one of the most laborious of the sughi, but trust me when I say that it is not a long slog. Our nonne (grandmothers) used to cook it for hours and hours, but I believe I have found a fair formula to prepare an easy-to-make yet tasty ragù.
Once it is done, you can freeze it and use it any time you want to dress your pasta with a meaty hint and feel surrounded by a Bolognese atmosphere.
**Preparation time: less than 30 mins
Cooking time: 45 mins to 1 hour
Fills 6 to 8 jam jars
• Ingredients for my Radical Ragù
Ground beef 750 to 900 gr
Strained or crushed tomatoes 680 ml, in a glass bottle or a tin as
long as it is made of simply tomatoes and sea salt
1 clove of garlic, or 1 tbsp of garlic powder
1 bay leaf (dried is fine)
Rosemary quanto basta (dried is fine)
A handful of basil leaves, fresh or dried
Thyme, as much as you like it
Olive oil quanto basta
Fresh parsley quanto basta
Chop the carrots and the shallots, fry them gently in a large pan in olive oil to brown them and add some parsley leaves.
Add the crushed garlic clove that has to cook until golden-brown. You will remove it before adding the tomato sauce. As an alternative, you can sprinkle the mix of mince and tomato sauce later on with a tbsp of garlic powder.
Fry over a medium heat for 10 mins, stirring now and then, until softened and starting to colour.
Add the crushed tomatoes, bay leaf, rosemary, more parsley if you like, a mugful of water, a pinch of salt.
Stir in the mince and cook, breaking up any clumps of meat with a ladle.
Mix the whole thoroughly, cover with a lid and allow to simmer on a low heat for approximately 30 minutes – it does not have to gallop. Don’t forget to stir occasionally!
Remove the lid and continue cooking for 15 mins.
*Tip: Use a splatter screen to avoid unpleasant splashes of tomato sauce all around the stove, the kitchen and yourself.
Let it rest and cool down.
Once cooler, I usually blend the ragù with a handheld stick blender, but you can leave it chunky, if that’s your cup of tea.
You can easily freeze it and use it whenever you need to dress your pasta. Spaghetti and rigatoni marry wonderfully with this type of sugo.
Because usually a more traditional ragù is prepared with two or three kinds of meat: beef, veal and pork. But if you are not a Martha wearing your grey outfit, the single use of ground beef works perfectly fine, and I am always very satisfied with the outcome. And so are my guests.