Inspired by the delicious Gnocchi Alla Sorrentina I had in Fuerteventura, I had another go at a big batch of ragu bolognese. I knew that Marcella’s recipe from “The Essentials Of Classic Italian Cooking” actually is the basis for Heston Blumenthal’s adaptations (here are links to his “quick” version and his “sure, I will spend the entire weekend in the kitchen” version) but never had tried it.
Marcella Hazan’s recipe is available on the website of The New York Times but I ended up following the one over at Sassy Radish as it already was roughly the quantity I usually make and had a bit more guidance on the cooking times.
What worked and what didn’t:
I opted for the 2:1 beef/pork combination from the recipe and I used the same beef mince and thyme/fennel sausage meat that I always use. The sauce was tasty, really meaty, and didn’t dry out even though it was on the stove about 6 hours in total. I guess that was mainly because the meat was cooked instead of fried and the ragu was covered with quite some fat. As it was well separated, it was no effort to skim the fat off with a ladle.
On its own it already a lovely ragu that is a great deal easier to make than Heston’s recipes. The grating of nutmeg was a very nice touch, but we missed the herbs, intense tomato flavor, and the overall punch from Heston’s adaptation. We, therefore, added a 140gr / 5oz tin of tomato paste in the final hour of simmering to enhance the flavors.
The recipe is accurate, and you’ll get about 2 liters/quarts of ragu if you follow the quantities of Sassy Radish’ recipe. Therefore, the ragu was used that week both in a Gnocchi Alla Sorrentina as well as a straightforward Spaghetti Bolognese (with some added peas).
Mixing some of the easy additions from Heston will take this ragu to the next level. You can start by adding 2 finely sliced onions that were slowly caramelised with a star anise to the vegetables or by adding a muslin bag (or use a mesh tea egg like I do) with some bay leaves, fresh thyme sprigs, a star anise and some bruised coriander seeds when simmering after adding the tomatoes to the softened vegetables. You can also add a kick to the ragu by adding some red wine vinegar and a dash of Worcestershire sauce or Asian fish sauce towards the end of the cooking.
Verdict: 8/10; Will be made again