Cozy comfort food – that’s ragù for you. Little effort and oodles of yum. It’s a sauce that lends itself to many applications. In this recipe we serve it the traditional way – on pasta. But how about serving it in baked spaghetti squash using the cavity as a bowl? A little grating of Mt Lehman water buffalo cheese and it’s soul-satisfying. Or ladle it on spiralized veggie noodles such as zucchini. No matter how it’s served, it will be a family favourite. Double up the ingredients and freeze it in small containers.
- 2 Tbsp (30 mL) extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra
- 1 large sweet onion, peeled and finely diced
- 1 large carrot, peeled and finely diced
- 1 stalk celery, finely diced
- 4 large garlic cloves, smashed and minced
- 4 slices lean bacon, diced
- 1½ lbs (750 g) Reverent Acres ground water buffalo, divided
- ½ cup (125 mL) dry white wine
- ½ cup (125 mL) water buffalo milk
- ½ cup (125 mL) low-sodium beef broth
- 28 oz (796 mL) can diced tomatoes, including juice
- 3 Tbsp (45 mL) tomato paste
- 2-in (5 cm) piece Parmesan rind, optional*
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 Tbsp (30 mL) minced fresh oregano
- 1 Tbsp (15 mL) maple syrup or sugar
- ½ tsp (2 mL) sea salt, plus extra
- ½ tsp (2 mL) freshly ground black pepper
- Minced fresh basil, garnish
- Shaved Parmesan, optional
- Crushed dried red chilies, optional
- 1 egg, whisked
- ¼ cup (60 mL) grated Mt Lehman Tomme cheese
- ½ cup (125 mL) plain unseasoned breadcrumbs
- 2 Tbsp (30 mL) minced fresh parsley
- 1 Tbsp (15 mL) minced fresh basil
- 1 tsp (5 mL) Worcestershire sauce
- ½ tsp (2 mL) sea salt
- ¼ tsp (1 mL) freshly ground black pepper
To make ragù, in large heavy saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion, carrot, celery and garlic and sauté until softened and caramelized. Add diced bacon and cook, stirring often until golden and crisp. Add ½ lb (250 g) ground water buffalo, cooking and stirring to break up meat until crumbly, about 10 to 15 minutes. Add white wine and cook, scraping and loosening the flavourful brown bits stuck to bottom of pan. When wine has evaporated, stir in milk. Do not worry if the rich milk fat curdles. It will disappear during cooking. Add beef broth, diced tomatoes and their juices, tomato paste, Parmesan rind, herbs, syrup and seasonings. Bring to a gentle boil stirring to blend. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 2½ to 3 hours to thicken sauce and for flavours to blend. Stir occasionally. Ragù is ready when you push sauce to one side and no liquid separates. It must be thick and creamy.
While ragù cooks, preheat oven to 350 F (180 C). Lightly oil 9 x 13-in (3.5 L) baking dish and set aside. In large bowl combine remaining 1 lb (454 g) ground water buffalo with meatball ingredients. Mix meatball ingredients well with your hands and roll into 1-in (2.5 cm) balls. Place in oiled dish making sure they don’t touch. Bake in oven for 15 minutes or until done. Remove and set aside. Lightly cool before gently loosening from pan. Refrigerate until ready to add to sauce.
When sauce is beautifully thickened, remove woody thyme stems and Parmesan rind and discard. Fold in cooked meatballs along with any pan juices that may have collected and bring to a low simmer. Cover and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes until piping hot. Stir occasionally. Add more seasonings to taste if you wish.
Sauce is now ready to be ladled over cooked pasta at this point, or placed into containers, brought to room temperature and refrigerated or frozen for longer storage.
To serve, bring a large saucepan with lightly salted water to a full boil. Add pasta and cook until al denté, about 6 minutes. Drain well. Stir a little ragù into pasta to prevent it from sticking.
To serve, twist forks of pasta into a serving bowl. Top with a ladle of sauce containing a few meatballs and scatter with some minced fresh basil and grated Parmesan. Sprinkle with additional freshly ground black pepper and serve with crushed chilies, if using.
*Parmesan rind is optional but adds a rich flavour to the sauce.