Monday, March 05, 2007

Wild Boar Ragu

Ragù - often known as bolognaise sauce - is the typical pasta sauce of the northern Italian tradition, particularly of the city of Bologna and surroundings.

The traditional version is made from beef, but basically any kind of meat can be used: lamb, goose, duck, chicken, turkey - and mixed meats. The following recipe will work fine with any of the above. The meat of old wild boars becomes hard and fibrous, so young specimen of about 60 kg are better.

Ragù is a sauce that takes time to make. Don't start if you cannot follow through; quick versions of the sauce aren't really worth it.

First, hunt and kill a boar... joking, but that would be a great start.

- 350 g of boar meat, on the bone.
- 1 medium/small onion
- 1 medium carrot
- 1 celery stick
- Tomato paste or sieved tomatoes
- extra virgin olive oil
- Butter
- 1 glass of red wine (optional)

First, cut meat away from the bones and use those to make some stock: pour 1 liter of cold water in a pot, add the bones; another carrot; a celery stick; a hefty pinch of salt; a crushed garlic clove, skin on; and 2 crumpled bay leaves. Bring the whole thing to the boil and simmer covered for 45 min - 1 h. At the end, filter th stock through a colander (here we usually eat the vegs used for stock, later). If you think this is too laborious, normal beef stock will do.

Cut the meat into 1 cm cubes (if you happen to have a grinder handy, don't be shy with it...) and set it aside; chop the onion, carrot and celery - some people like them coarser, some finer. The indicated tool here is a Mezaluna.

Take a saucepan - best of all, a china one - and cover the bottom with oil and a heaping teaspoon of butter. Place on a medium fire and add into the saucepan chopped vegetables and meat, then fry them for some 15 min - until the meat is nicely browned. This phase is important to let meat and vegs exchange flavours; if everything is done properly, the aroma will already be mouth-watering.

Add a couple cups of warm stock and one heaping tablespoon of tomato paste (about 1 cup of sieved tomatoes): ragù must not be pale, but rich and dark in colour. At this point, add also the red wine if you like it.

Proper simmering is of paramount importance for ragù. It must simmer on a low fire for at least a couple of hours; keep an eye of it to avoid the sauce burning or sticking to the pan: add more stock or just warm water if required (and probably it will be). For that special touch, cook the sauce about 90 min, let it rest for a few hours and cook for another half to one hour.

Ragù is excellent with pasta and egg pasta (with plenty of grated Parmigiano on top); it is the sauce that goes into lasagna an you can eat it even on a slice of toasted bread.


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