Nonna Maria’s ragù

We all know how to make ragù and we all have our own way of making it, the inclusion of celery or not, tomato puree or not, marjoram or parsley; the variations are endless. This is Maria’s.

First of all, she’s a fan of the food processor and the freezer. She likes to take 3 sticks of celery, an onion and 4 carrots and blitz them to a rough puree. A couple of tablespoons are used for the ragù and the rest is frozen in handy sized portions for later in the week; the sauce, however, is always made fresh.

Everyone in Italy uses capacious, slightly sloping sided, aluminium frying pans, which make it easier to toss the pasta (never stirred) with the sauce at the end. Maria is no exception except she was in my kitchen and had to make do with a sauté pan. She dolloped the soffritto mix and a crushed garlic clove in a generous slug of olive oil and sautéed vegetables over a medium heat until the mixture was soft but not coloured. This took about 5 minutes.

Next she fried the ground beef (passed only once through the grinder) until brown, added a glass of white wine and let this evaporate before adding a good pinch of salt, a generous amount of black pepper and 2 cloves, a bottle of passata and a little water. The mixture bubbled down for about 20 minutes to a sloppy consistency. To finish, Maria added a knob of butter (for gloss and creaminess) and made sure both cloves were removed before ragù was ladled over lasagne, tossed with tagliatelle and folded through the ravioli – she managed to make huge quantities in a couple of hours. It was most impressive.

I think use of cloves is something I might copy – the two nails added a little bit of spice without making the ragù taste Christmassy.

Thank you Maria for your expertise, and Alessandra for the photo