Sunday, July 31, 2011

Kat's Italian Ragu

 Kat grew up eating her Nana's tomato gravy on lucky weekends.  Everyone in the family swears this stuff was the thing of joy.  Interestingly, Nana was totally devoid of Italian blood.  Nana was the daughter of a Native American lady and a Frenchman.  And true, it was joy none the less.

Kat has made great red sauces in the past, but never one that took a swing at a traditional Italian version:  The version where she makes "her" sauce - her style, her taste - but focuses on pasta and sauce as a first course and then serving a platter full of meltingly-tender meats of varying species and body part as a second course.  The original version is beef meatballs and chicken sausages but she's just turned back to eating pork so she took a trip to the grocery for inspiration.

She hit the Harris Teeter and came back with a meat maven's mash-up of hot pork sausage, beef short ribs, lamb stew meat and a pork tenderloin.  That's a lot of fatty meat with the exception of the tenderloin. Deciding to gild that particular lilly, the tenderloin,  just a bit we butterflied it, pounded it flat and sprinkled in salt, pepper, shaved garlic, torn basil, re-hydrated raisins and toasted pine nuts.  That was rolled and tied as best I could.  I am terrible at trussing - no patience, all spaz.

The meats - lamb, pork rollatini and short ribs - were seasoned and seared off with the sausage in a big aluminum pot with a generous portion of olive oil.  Each side bronzed, removed and set aside.  Kat left the fond and rendered fat in the pot for step two.

The second layer of flavor came from aromatics: onion and garlic.  These were browned simultaneously and, when cooked, Kat added oregano, pepper, italian seasoning, basil, tomato paste and secrets.  This was cooked together, formed a deeper, darker fond which was deglazed with red wine.  This simmered down until the alcohol aroma disappeared from the steam.

Three cans of tomatoes - 1 crushed and 2 pureed - were added to the pot and the whole mess was stirred.  The meat was added back in and the temperature was turned to high.  Once the pot's contents came to a messy, enthusiastic bubble, the heat was turned down to medium low and we walked away knowing that all we could do now was screw it up with unneeded attention.

6 Hours later the bright-red oil was skimmed from the sauce and we pulled the meat from the gently bubbling pot and let it sit on a plate in a warm place on the stove.  The meat from lamb pieces and beef ribs had mainly fallen off the bone and these remnants were stirred, disintegrating, into the sauce.

Spaghetti was boiled and bread was toasted.  The sauce was ladled over the pasta which was heaped high on plates. The flavor was big and bold and meaty.  The sauce was velvety and with all the different fats it coated the spaghetti really nicely.

I hope Kat makes this again.  Every Sunday.  Forever.

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