November 6, 2011

Ragu Napoletano

It wasn't difficult for me to fall in love with Italian cuisine. One of the restaurants we frequented growing up was Thailand's first Italian establishment owned by a Thai guy. My dad's friend, to be exact. My mom also made some killer bolognese in the slow cooker and I was always envied when I brought spaghetti to lunch at school.

As you know, when I first started to cook when Brandon and I got married, it was Rachael Ray who got me into the kitchen, but I quickly graduated from her onto Giada DeLaurentiis.

I can see some of you hard core food nerds rolling your eyes right now. But hey, like bacon to a former vegetarian, there is always a gateway. Giada got me interested in Italian cooking, cultures, and language. (I'm currently on my second year of casually learning Italian, made more difficult by being a third language learned on a second one.)

Naturally, I paid a lot of attention to Anthony Bourdain's No Reservation when he visited Italy once again in search of the origin of the Red Sauce. [ETA: has been removed. Gotta find another copy.]

I took notes of all the ingredients mentioned in this video and paid close attention to what was being put in the pot. There isn't a recipe laying around or anything, so I just went for it.

The video more or less tell you everything that goes in the ragu:

Onion, garlic, good extra virgin olive oil. Pork sausage, veal, pork ribs, and braciole (pieces of veal wrapped around parmesan cheese, garlic, basil, parsley, raisins, pine nuts). You brown the meats in the pan, then cover it with tomato puree. Put it on super low, just so it barely bubbles, all day. Skim of the fat. Toss the sauce with the pasta as your first course, then serve the meat as main course with wild greens sauteed in garlic and pepperoncino.

A good testament to a solid base recipe is this: even I took off running with the ingredients and put my own interpretation to it, the result is still fantastic. I may have really been Italian in my past life after all!

For my Sunday supper, I didn't go to the length of doing the sauteed greens, but I did separate the meats from the sauce. However, I did provide plenty of scarpetta to mop up the sauce at the end.

Ragu Napoletano della Oakley
Inspired by this awesome Italian momma on No Reservation.This recipe can easily feeds 6...or 4 really hungry people. :) Obviously, I winged the whole thing. So there's really no measurement to much of anything. Trust your judgement!

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 lb. Italian mild/sweet pork sausage, kept whole
  • 3-4 lbs. pork ribs (I prefer short ribs but country style will do too, whatever is available).
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 4-5 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • A palm full each of pine nuts and raisins, roughly chopped
  • Strained tomatoes in a can, box, or bottle. I used a box of Pomi (Trader Joe's) or a bottle of Bionaturae (Whole Foods) 
  • A palm-full of chopped Italian parsley
  • Parmesan cheese rinds -- if you have some. You can buy them from Whole Foods too now.
  • Accompaniment: grated Parmesan and crusty bread to mop up all the goodness

1. Heat the EVOO in a pot on medium-high. Liberally season the pork ribs. Brown all the meats, starting with sausage (yup...the whole thing goes in), one batch at a time. Set aside. Keep the fat in the pan.


2. Turn the heat to medium, add onion and garlic and a pinch of salt. Cook until soft. Add pine nuts, raisins and tomato paste. Cook a few more minutes.

3. Add the meat and juices back to the pot. Add the tomatoes, water, and parsley. Move the meat around to get the sauce all the way to the bottom and sneak the cheese rinds into there.


4. Bring it to bubbling. Then turn the heat down as low as it's going to go. Let simmer.  It'll look like soup the first few hours.  But don't worry, we're going to get that reduced.


5. Keep the sauce on slow bubbling at least 4 hours. (See the video of how low the bubbles should be!). At least 5 hours from my experience.  I've gone to 8 before...

6. About 30 minutes before serving, skim the fat off the top of the sauce. And there will be a LOT of it. (Still have the empty can? Good! Use that.)

7. Remove the meat from the sauce. Be careful as they're all falling off the bones.  Discard bones and cheese rind at this point. Put the meat on a platter and keep warm.

8. Cook your pasta (I used rigatoni) in a pot of boiling salted water. You can reserve a cup or so of the pasta water then drain over the sink or, what I did, fish out the pasta from the pot and put it on the sauce directly so I have all the pasta water in the world to add to the sauce to loosen things up. If your pasta water is nicely salted, you won't have to worry about it diluting the seasoning of the ragu. Toss to coat.


10. Serve your pasta with a drizzle of really good extra virgin olive oil and side of grated parmesan cheese and the platter of meat.


Buon appetito!


Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for posting this! I just watched this episode and searched and found your blog! Made it this weekend with my husband and my neighbors. WHOA DELICIOUS!

Tempting Weddings said...

i too saw the episode last night and wanted to make this today thank u so much!
teresa vigil

Erin B said...

After watching this episode the first time I knew I had to try making a ragu. Thanks for posting your recipe- I read you recipe a few times, watched the episode again, and just made a decadent, delicious meal that felt like being in Italy. Grazie!

OakMonster said...

Hi Erin, thank you! I hope you enjoy it.

Gosh. Now I want to make some this weekend. lol

Anonymous said...

The pine nuts and raisins do not go directly into the sauce, they are stuffed into braciole.

OakMonster said...

Hey, Anonymous. Indeed, in the original recipe they are stuffed into braciole. But since we don't have pre-made braciole on hand, I adapted and just toss 'em into the sauce with everything else. It still turned out pretty good! :)

Thanks for stopping by.