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The Perfect Ragu

By: Deanna Linder

Growing up in Los Angeles, I was blessed to be exposed to a vast variety of ethnic foods, from Vietnamese, Persian, Peruvian, Korean, etc. I love tasting different flavors, ingredients and textures, and in general, just the feeling of sitting in a very authentic restaurant, that almost makes you feel as if you have actually travelled across the world (my second favorite hobby).

To this day, now living in Israel, I still try to find and eat at ethnic restaurants like The Thai House and Salaam Bombay. But for some reason, when it comes to cooking at home, the style I prefer is almost always Italian. Italian cooking is characterized by fresh, available, local ingredients, not altered too much, seasoned just right, and unpretentious as can be. Take a perfectly ripe tomato, crisp basil, good quality olive oil and some fresh mozzarella, and you have the tastiest, simplest salad ever.  Viva Italia!

I’m a huge Mario Batali fan. In his book, Molto Italiano, Batali offers really easy to follow, classic Italian recipes. One that I just keep on making over and over again is the Ragu Bolognese. Every Italian food lover should have a good Ragu in their recipe collection, and you will need to look no further after making this one.

Ragu Bolognese (Adapted from Mario Batali’s Molto Italiano)

Ingredients for 6-8 servings:

¼ cup olive oil

1 cup pancetta or bacon, cut into small cubes

2 medium onions, finely chopped

4 ribs celery, finely chopped

3 carrots, finely chopped

5 garlic cloves, sliced

2 pounds (1 kilo) ground beef/veal

1 cup tomato paste

1 cup whole milk

1 cup dry white wine

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

Salt and fresh ground pepper

Preparation:

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat and add the pancetta. Stir occasionally for about 3 minutes, until the pancetta is crisp. Add the onions, celery, carrots and garlic and cook for another 5 minutes, until the vegetables are translucent, but not browned.
  2. Add the ground beef, increase the heat to high and brown the meat, stirring frequently.
  3. Add the tomato paste, milk, wine, thyme and bring just to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 1 to 1½ hours.
  4. Season with salt and pepper, remove from heat and allow to cool a bit before serving.

Serve with pasta, rice or mashed potatoes.