There’s nothing quite like the slow flash of a meaty ragout sauce simmering in a heavy-bottomed pot, misting the kitchen windows on a cold fall day to make you instantly feel at home.
Your approach to cooking changes dramatically throughout the week, and the weekends are an opportunity for foodies to delve into cooking projects that a busy week doesn’t leave time for.
A braised ragout is more than the sum of its parts, and its key ingredient is time, making it an ideal weekend indulgence pot. Enjoy it with wide-sliced pappardelle, baked in a dish with sheets of fresh pasta and cheese sauce, or simply with a spoon alongside slices of grilled sourdough rubbed with garlic and a few drops of your finest extra virgin olive oil.
While I know better than most the dangers of playing with an Italian classic, I usually stick with a braised beef ragout, but of course there’s room for variety, and this week I have three ragu-inspired recipes to offer just that.
The first is a rich meat sauce with tender duck, a favorite at Restaurant Hippo in Highland Park, Los Angeles. Tender duck meat is shredded and draped through a slow-simmered, rich tomato and red wine sauce before being mixed into freshly cooked pasta. You need to trim excess fat from your duck legs, but don’t throw it away — throw it away because the fat makes for the most delicious fried potatoes.
Next, there’s a slightly quick option in the form of a ragout, which is richly prepared with chicken thighs, double cream and dried porcini mushrooms. It would make a delicious pie with a chunky puff pastry crust, but is especially tasty with fresh penne pasta if you can track it down.
Finally, red lentils form the core of this ‘ragu’, and while they take time to cook, they make a wonderful meatless alternative. This hearty ragout is served with freshly cooked noodles or zucchini noodles, which I now regularly see in supermarkets.
Porcini Chicken Ragu with fresh penne
Cooking time: 40 minutes Servings: 4
30 g dried porcini mushrooms
3 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 stick of celery, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 large skinless chicken thighs, finely chopped
2 chicken breasts with skin, finely chopped
Good pinch of chilli flakes
200 ml white wine
200 ml fresh chicken broth
4 sprigs of fresh oregano, leaves removed
50ml double cream
50g grated Parmesan
400 g fresh penne pasta
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1. Place the porcini mushrooms in a bowl and cover with 200ml boiling water and set aside to soak.
2. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a pan and gently sauté the onion, carrot and celery with a little spice for 10 minutes. Add the garlic and the remaining oil and cook for another minute.
3. Add the chicken, season again with salt and pepper and sear on all sides.
4. Add the chili flakes and mushrooms with the soaking water and boil.
5. Pour in white wine and simmer for 5 minutes. Then add the broth and oregano and partially cover and simmer for 25 minutes.
6. Remove the lid, reduce the heat and add the cream.
7. Cook the pasta in boiling salted water for 2-3 minutes, then scoop out with a slotted spoon and add directly to the ragout. Mix well and serve sprinkled with parmesan and some black pepper.
Cooking time: 120 minutes For 4 people
4 duck legs, trimmed
2 sticks of celery, finely diced
1 onion, finely diced
1 large carrot, finely diced
6 garlic cloves, chopped
250 ml red wine
50 ml balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp tomato puree
1 x 400g tin finely chopped tomatoes
250 ml chicken broth
500 g pappardelle pasta
25 g pecorino shavings
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Place the duck skin-side down in a cold pan. Turn the heat down to medium and cook for 8-10 minutes or until the skin is well browned and the fat has started to ooze out. Set the drumsticks aside on a plate and drain excess fat, but leave some fat in the pan.
2. Sauté celery, onion, carrot and garlic. Stir occasionally for 6-8 minutes until the vegetables are soft. Add the red wine and vinegar, reduce gently for 3-4 minutes and add the tomato puree, chopped tomatoes and chicken broth along with the duck legs. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer until duck is tender, 1.5 hours.
3. When the duck is almost done, place a saucepan of salted water over high heat and once it is boiling, add the pappardelle and cook according to package directions.
4. Transfer the duck legs to a plate, bring the sauce to a boil and simmer until slightly reduced, 15-20 minutes. Shred the meat from the bones, removing the skin and bones. Return the meat to the pot and toss through the sauce. Toss the pasta through the duck stew, leaving a little duck for garnish. Serve in bowls and garnish with some of the remaining duck and pecorino shavings.
Cooking time: 60 minutes Servings: 4
1-2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
1 stick of celery, finely chopped
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried chili flakes
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
300 g dried red lentils
2 x 400g can plum tomatoes
1 liter vegetable broth
sea salt and ground black pepper
A good handful of fresh basil, roughly torn
Pecorino cheese, grated, for serving
Whole wheat spaghetti or zucchini noodles to serve
1. In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, add the oil and sauté the onion, carrots, and celery until tender, 8-10 minutes.
2. Stir in the garlic, oregano, and chilli flakes and fry for a further 1-2 minutes.
3. Add the lentils, tomatoes and vegetable stock and bring to the boil. Mash the tomatoes with a fork so they break apart easily. Season with sea salt and ground black pepper, reduce heat slightly and continue cooking for 40 minutes or until lentils are tender.
4. Double-check the seasonings before tossing in fresh basil and tossing whole-wheat spaghetti or zucchini noodles.
5. Serve in bowls with grated pecorino cheese.
https://www.independent.ie/life/food-drink/recipes/donal-skehans-three-slow-and-saucy-weekend-ragus-with-chicken-duck-and-beef-41012912.html Donal Skehan’s three weekend ragu recipes – with chicken, duck and lentils