Why, oh why didn’t I try this one before?? Hearty beef ragù covered in a creamy layer of crispy crusted mac ‘n’ cheese! Hmmmm…. ultimate comfort food!
Usually, I veer towards a mix of beef mince and Italian fresh sausage meat as a basis for my ragù bolognese. However, using a good braising meat – like the beef shin in this recipe – is a nice and more wintery varietal. As Easter in the Netherlands was colder than Christmas, it was just fitting that I saw this recipe in Olive Magazine that weekend. Below is my adapted recipe, serving 8 (with the addition of some fried mushrooms on top).
For the Ragù Bolognese
- 1.7 kg / 3.5 lbs beef shin meat, cut into cubes of about 2,5 cm / 1″
- 3 tbsp flour, seasoned really well
- olive oil
- 2 onions, finely chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 3 carrots, finely chopped
- 4 celery sticks, finely chopped
- 2 star anise
- 2 bay leaves
- 5 tbsp tomato paste
- 500ml / 2 cup beef stock
- 250ml / 1 cup red wine
- 450ml / 2 cups tomato passata
- 1 bunch of basil, chopped
For the Mac ‘n’ Cheese
- 50g / 1/2 stick of butter
- 50g / 3 tbsp flour
- 1 lt / 4 cups full-fat milk
- 2 tsp English mustard powder
- 210g / 7oz mature cheddar, grated
- 150g / 5oz gruyère, grated
- 150g / 5oz emmental, grated
- 90g / 3oz mature gouda, grated
- 500g / 18oz macaroni or penne pasta
- Heat the oven to 140C / 285F
- Toss the beef cubes in the seasoned flour and shake off any excess.
- Heat a little oil in a heavy based casserole and then cook the beef cubes on medium-high heat in small batches until they have a nice colour on all sides. Then scoop them out and do the next batch, adding some more oil if where needed.
- Once all the beef has browned, tip in the red wine to deglaze the pan using a wooden spoon to quickly scrape off all the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Pour all wine reduction back in a container for later on.
- Clean up the casserole and heat some oil, add the onion and cook for a few minutes until starting to soften and then add the garlic, celery, carrot, star anise and bay leaves. Cook, stirring for about 5 minutes, then add the tomato paste, beef cubes, stock, wine reduction and tomato passata. Stir through and bring everything to a simmer.
- Cover the pan with a tight fitting lid (or use foil and put on the lid to create a seal) and transfer to the oven and cook for 3 1/2 hours.
- Check if the beef is done – it needs to fall apart very easily – and if it is not, put the pan back in the oven for another 30 minutes.
- When the beef is done, take the pan from the oven and shred the beef cubes into strands and return to the pan and stir in the chopped basil.In the meantime, prepare the the mac ‘n’ cheese:
- Cook the macaroni until just al dente then rinse under cold water and drain well.
- Melt the butter in a large sauce pan then stir in the flour and mustard powder. Keep cooking and stirring for 5 minutes until golden and then gradually whisk in the milk to get a smooth sauce.
- Bring the sauce to a simmer – you will notice it thicken a bit – and by then add about 80% of the cheeses and stir until melted. Season to taste.
- Mix the macaroni with the cheese sauce.
- Spoon half the ragu into a large baking dish (the other half freezes very well) and top with the mac ‘n’ cheese and remaining cheeses and transfer to the oven (for and extra crunchy top mix the cheese with a handful of panko breadcrumbs)
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until golden and bubbling. Rest for 5 minutes before tucking in.
Next posts will be healthier, I promise 😉