I didn’t feel good today. I think it was more a sheer bout of laziness, but I had a lot of ambition for this Saturday when I was going to bed on Friday night. Saturday morning? Totally different story.
I WAS going to go to the French Market down the street and browse. I WAS going to get a mani / pedi on my way back. Those dreams were quickly dashed once I decided my body felt less than spectacular, so I just couched it all day instead.
Despite my pitiful showing for motivation all afternoon, I somehow mustered the energy to bust out a recipe that took me three hours on Saturday night. It is kind of strange to think that this is how I spent a weekend night … have I mentioned before that Mark and I are restaurant addicts? One big reason I started this blog was to curb some of the copious amounts of cash we were shelling out each week on going out nearly four times a week (in Chicago!)
That being said, back to my three hours spent slaving away over the hot stove on this cold and blustery Saturday evening. I LOVE how the flavors of mirepoix, red wine, and meat blend together. A “classic ragu” seemed right up my alley for tonight, and although the original recipe called for ground beef, veal, and pancetta to make a classic bolognese, I had purchased some spicy Italian sausage for another recipe and decided to give it a shot. This recipe for spicy Italian sausage ragù is really a classic version with just a little kick!
First, dice the carrot, celery and onion into small pieces. I did not make mine that small, as I had anticipated them slowly disintegrating into everything else as they cooked.
This turned into mistake number one. But hey, this is all about the learning experience!
In a large pot over medium heat, add olive oil to coat the bottom. Once the pot is hot, add the veggies all at once. Let them cook for about 8 minutes while stirring often. While this is cooking, remove your two spicy Italian sausage links from their casings. This was my first time doing this, and…um…that shit was interesting. Anyway, break up the sausage as much as you like and add it to your veggies. Cook this for about ten minutes, or until all sausage bits are browned.
Next, add 1/2 cup of [dry] red wine to the pot. Bring the pot to a boil, and add your beef broth and tomato paste. Stir everything together until well blended, and then turn down to a low heat to allow the dish to simmer … for the next 1.5 hours. (Be sure to keep an eye on it and stir it every so often.) Go ahead and add in salt and pepper to taste while it simmers.
Once you hit about an hour and twenty minutes, heat a small sauce pan to medium heat. Add 1/2 cup of whole milk (I used 2% and it definitely worked just fine!) to the sauce pan. Bring this to a simmer, and then slowly add it to your giant pot of ragu. Again, mix everything together until well blended, and then let this simmer some more. This time, be sure to cover most of it with a lid, but leave a crack of air for a little breathing room.
About this time, you’re going to have 45 minutes left for that glory to simmer. While Mark peacefully napped on the couch, I decided to tackle another recipe during this time: roasted garlic asparagus.
This, my friends, did not go as planned. It is a good concept though.
Using fresh asparagus, rinse your desired serving size in the sink. Pat dry, and toss into a Ziploc freezer bag. Mince about 1 or 2 cloves of garlic (I used one, as I made our side portions pretty small – about 8 asparagus each.) Toss your minced garlic into the Ziploc bag with the asparagus. Finally, throw some olive oil in there … just enough to pretty well coat one side of the asparagus. Give the bag a few good shakes, enough to thoroughly coat all sides of the of the asparagus. Remove the contents with tongs, place onto a baking sheet, and then into an oven at 350 degrees. The original recipe called for a 30 minute cook time, but this made mine super mushy and unappealing to me and Mark. It looked fine, and the exteriors held together well, but upon cutting into each one they just became mush. Don’t do that. I would suggest a 15 minute cook time on these, but also keep in mind the thickness of your veggies and what texture you personally prefer.
As the asparagus roasts in the oven, bring another pot to boil and add your desired amount of pasta. I used farfalle, which actually worked out pretty well. Cook as instructed, but be sure to leave about 1/2 cup of pasta water as you’re draining it if in case you think your ragu is a little dry and you’d like to add some pasta water to it to bring it back to life. –> [This is what the original recipe said to do; I did not use it.]
Add your pasta to the ragu, and mix everything together well enough to coat every bit of pasta. Dish it up, top it with a little grated parmesan [fresh is the best!] and let your company indulge. Don’t forget about the asparagus!
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 cup diced celery
- 1/2 cup diced carrots
- 3/4 cup diced white onion
- (2) 4 oz. links of spicy pork sausage (out of casing)
- 1/2 cup red wine (I used Estancia Cabernet)
- 1 1/2 cups beef broth
- 3 tbsp. tomato paste
- 2 cups pasta of your choice
- salt and pepper to taste
- Finely dice carrot, onion, and celery.
- Heat a large pot to medium, coat bottom of pot with olive oil.
- Add diced veggies and cook 8-10 minutes, stirring often.
- Remove sausage links from casing, break apart over large pot into veggies and olive oil.
- Cook sausage and veggies 10 minutes, until sausage is browned.
- Add red wine to pot, bring to boil. Then add beef broth and tomato paste.
- Stir 30 seconds until well combined, turn burner down to low.
- Allow ingredients to simmer on low for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.
- After 1 hour 20 minutes, heat a small saucepan to medium.
- Add milk and bring to a simmer, then promptly remove from heat and pour milk into large pot.
- Stir in milk until well combined, then cover large pot with lid. Leave just a crack for a little breathing room, and let simmer for another 45 minutes.
- Once you've hit about 25 minutes, start cooking your pasta as directed on pasta box.
- Drain pasta, but leave 1/2 cup pasta water to add to ragù (just in case)
- Add drained pasta to large pot and gently mix thoroughly to coat all surfaces of pasta.
- Plate and top with freshly grated parmesan! Serve immediately.
- By finely dicing the vegetables, they cook down and mix in with the sauce much better. Also, this recipe is time consuming, but not labor intensive. Don't be scared by the time it takes - most of it is just letting ingredients simmer!
Actual Prep / cook time: 3 hours 20 minutes
Overall difficulty to make: 4 [solely because of time]
Clean-up difficulty: 4
Overall satisfaction: 8.5 – ragu / 3 – asparagus [flavor: great. texture: blah.]
What I would change next time? I would chop the mirepoix veggies smaller (the taste was still fantastic and texture was totally fine with how I made mine, but you could still see chunks of carrots when I served it.) I think I would also suggest orcchiette pasta next time just to see how it went. Also, I would like to maybe add more liquids and tomato paste for a thicker sauce, while chopping the pork into smaller bits so it all flows together really well.
As for the asparagus, I would cut the cook time in half to fifteen minutes!