CLASSIC RAGOUT (pronounced rah-GOO)

recipe + photography BILLY DOUKAS

Ragoutier, a French word meaning to awaken or stimulate the appetite, has evolved into ragout. Slow-cooked to reduce the liquid and concentrate the flavors, ragout is comfort food at its finest and goes perfectly with pasta. Serving ragout over a wide noodle, such as pappardelle, is ideal, but large rigatoni, with its tubular shape, also has a great surface area for the sauce to adhere.


Yield: 8–10 servings, and then some!
Time: 6 hours (mostly just simmering)

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (with a harvest date)
2 tablespoons salted butter
2 large sweet or yellow onions, chopped medium
3 carrots, peeled and shredded
4 large celery stalks, diced medium
3 ounces pancetta, diced medium
2 tablespoons garlic, finely minced
4 tablespoons oregano
6 bay leaves, broken in half
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon black pepper
6 tablespoons tomato paste, double concentrated (tube)
1 pound ground beef, 80/20
1 pound ground pork
1 pound ground venison
2 teaspoons coriander
2 teaspoons thyme
1 cup mushrooms, chopped coarsely
28 ounces tomato purée
8 ounces red wine
Beef broth, as needed, 1–2 cups
Ample amounts of fresh parmesan cheese, shredded
1 bunch flat parsley, very finely chopped

2 pounds pappardelle (wide noodle)
2 pounds rigatoni (large tubes)

2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon tomato paste, concentrated
1 cup pasta water, retained from cooking

Ragout sauce prep
On stove top, heat olive oil and butter in large Dutch oven, and sauté onion, celery and carrot for 30 minutes on medium-low heat. Add pancetta, garlic, oregano, bay leaves, salt and pepper; continue to cook another 15 minutes. Combine tomato paste with sautéed mix, break apart beef while adding, and cook uncovered about an hour, until dry. Add pork and cook on a “high simmer,” again until dry, which will be 1 hour. Add venison, coriander, thyme, and mushrooms, stir well, and continue simmering another hour, or until dry. Introduce tomato purée and wine to meat mixture, cover, and simmer over low heat for 2, or more, hours. While cooking, stir regularly and add beef broth as necessary to reach a texture similar to a sloppy joe mix; but it’s not!

Pasta prep
When ragout sauce is ready, 20 minutes before serving time, heat salted water in ¾-full 12-quart-size pot, and bring to a boil. Add pappardelle or rigatoni, which will take 8–10 minutes to cook al dente. While pasta is boiling, heat olive oil in a large skillet and set up the colander and tongs for a quick transfer. Taste-test the pasta; drain it in colander while reserving 1 cup of pasta water in a bowl. Add tomato paste to this bowl and mix thoroughly. Place the pasta in the saucepan of heated oil and mix gently with a rubber spatula. Once completely coated, add the pasta-tomato water and stir.

(This process may need to be done with half the pasta at a time, depending on the size of your skillet.)

Use tongs to lift pasta portions into each serving plate, and spread several generous ladles of ragout across the top. Sprinkle with fresh shredded parmesan cheese and fresh finely chopped parsley.

Suggestions and pairings
Ragout with pasta is a hearty meal such that a crisp salad or freshly sliced cucumbers are good accompaniments to lighten it up.

This is a perfect dinner to pair with a fruity and refreshing, easy-drinking red wine, such as Côtes Du Rhône Rouge, E. Guigal from France ($12), or a simple classic Italian red, such as Valpolicella Classico, Bonacosta ($16). A firm and robust red California wine, Broadside Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles ($12), works very well.

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