It’s time well spent.
Ragu recipes abound. Here’s what works for me: An onion, a dab of ground meat, wine and peas, tomato puree. This recipe makes ragu that will sauce pasta for four people.
In olive oil saute half an onion the size of a tennis ball. Bigger is better. Onion adds sweetness and soul to a sauce. Chop the onion, roll it in olive oil until it takes on that transparent look.
Next break up a quarter pound of ground meat. Beef is fine. Veal is fine. Pork or lamb or buffalo are fine. Some recipes call for a combination of meats. Break up? Scatter bits of the meat over the onion bed, raise the heat, jab and roll the mix for five minutes or so. Salt and pepper.
Lower the heat and cover the pan, cooking the meat down a little more. You’re lightly browning it; you’re releasing and activating the fat in the meat. (Note: if you use a lean meat like buffalo, you’ll need to add a little more olive oil.)
Wine makes this sauce fragrant. I add a third of a cup of red wine. Some recipes call for white. Do what works for you (or use what you have on hand). I like a deep dark sauce, which makes me a red man. Cover and cook ten minutes or so on medium heat. You’re cooking the wine down and should get something that looks like this:
Now half a jar of tomato puree. And now, if peas agree with you, half to three-quarters of bag of frozen peas.
Raise the heat to get your mix cooking, then cover the pan and lower the heat. It cooks. In 30 minutes it looks like this:
Spurn spaghetti or linguini when you have a gutsy ragu like this. For this sauce you want a wide noodle, like tagliatelle or fettucine, or a pasta that “holds” the sauce like garganelli, wheels, or campanelle.
See how those peas get nestled in the pasta? There is no greater food than pasta with ragu. Shown above: pork ragu with campanelle. Oh, baby.