Nothing says winter more than a house filled with the aroma of a flavorful sauce that has bubbling on the stove all afternoon. Since a slow cooked sauce only improves the longer it cooks, you can put the ingredients in a pot early in the afternoon then let it cook away until it is time for dinner. But all sauces are not the same. Whereas the main ingredient in traditional “spaghetti” sauces are tomatoes which are accented with meats, herbs, or other vegetables, a traditional ragu is primarily meat, or a combination of meats, with a touch of tomato added in.
This ragu is an adaptation from a recipe from Kara Zuaro; I’ve substituted and added ingredients based on I had in my refrigerator and pantry. And that is the true beauty of a ragu; regardless of the ingredients the method remains the same. It is made with small pieces of lamb that I cut into bite sized pieces before allowing it to simmer for hours. It is also heavily seasoned with herbs and spices but you can adjust the flavors to your own preferences. It is better to be light handed with the dried chili peppers since the flavors only intensify the longer they cook. The result? A dark and rich sauce that is the perfect topper for a bowl of steaming pasta. Add a bit of freshly grated cheese and a glass of Barolo wine and dinner is ready.
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
1 stalk celery, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds lamb meat, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 15-ounce can chopped tomatoes
3 bay leaves
1 cup red wine
6 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
1 dried chili pepper, crushed
1 cinnamon stick
5 whole cloves
2 tablespoons fresh minced sage, plus more for garnish
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Salt & pepper to taste
Freshly grated pecorino cheese, for serving
- In a large Dutch oven set over medium-high heat, saute the onion, carrots, and celery in the olive oil until the onions are translucent and the carrots are tender.
- Add the meat and turning occasionally, cook over high heat until it is browned on all sides.
- Stir in the tomatoes, bay leaves, and wine.
- Add the garlic, dried chili, cinnamon stick, cloves, sage, oregano and red wine vinegar. Generously season with salt and pepper.
- Simmer on low on the stove top with the lid to the pot slightly ajar. Stir occasionally for at least 2 hours but longer if possible. The meat should be completely tender and most of the liquid evaporated.
- Remove the cinnamon stick and bay leaves and adjust the seasonings.
- Serve over hot pasta topped with the grated cheese.