Recipe: Sam Mannering's ragu bolognese

You can use beef mince in this ragu bolognese, but venison mince is leaner and has more flavour.

You can use beef mince in this ragu bolognese, but venison mince is leaner and has more flavour.

I've wanted to do a good ragu for some time now. I've been mindful of the fact that student-style spag bol has left many of us with an uneasy relationship with mince, but this is something quite different. 

The city of Bologna is famous for the dish that bears its name. My friend Andy hails from Bologna and he once gave me his grandmother's recipe. The simplicity of it is as astounding as it is beautiful. I love restraint in cooking; simple so often results in glorious. 

Digging around for other recipes I was intrigued but unsurprised to discover how much variation there is. Does one add mushrooms? Is it sacrilege to add a carrot? Not being Italian, I decided I was allowed a few concessions. 

I've based my own recipe on the classic ragu bolognese; not quite as simple as Andy's grandmother's, but hopefully something she'd approve of. Recently, I've been playing around with venison mince. It has a lot more flavour than beef mince and is much leaner. Use the wider flat pasta varieties such as pappardelle or penne; anything that will make the most of the sauce. 

*Fans freak out over Mary Berry's strange bolognese recipe
*Recipe: Ray McVinnie's fettucine ragu
*​Recipe: Polpette by Sam Mannering

Serves: 4-6
Cooking time: 2 hours

Prep time: 15 minutes

olive oil
2 red onions, peeled and sliced
150g thick-cut bacon, pancetta or prosciutto, diced
few sprigs fresh rosemary
few bay leaves
500g venison, beef or lamb mince
1 cup red wine
2 x 400g tins plum tomatoes
1 tsp soft brown sugar
generous pinch freshly grated nutmeg
salt and pepper
2 tbsp single cream (optional)
pasta cooked al dente (fricelli, pappardelle, tagliatelle, penne or similar) to serve
handful flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped, to serve
shaved or grated pecorino cheese, to serve

In a large pan heat a tablespoon of olive and add red onion. Cook gently for several minutes until onion is soft and translucent. Add diced bacon or prosciutto and continue to cook for 5-6 more minutes, until any fat has melted down and the pieces are starting to crisp. 

Pull rosemary leaves off stems, add to pan with bay leaves and cook for another minute, then follow with mince. Continue to cook for several minutes, breaking the mince up and letting it brown a little. 

Add red wine, tomatoes, sugar and nutmeg. Fill one of the empty tomato tins with water, swirl it around to get the rest of the sauce out of the tin, then pour liquid in too. Season well with salt and pepper. 

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Simmer for about an hour and a half, stirring occasionally so it doesn't catch on the bottom, until mixture has thickened. Stir in cream, if using, and check seasoning. 

Serve by folding al dente pasta into ragu with chopped parsley. Top with shaved pecorino and serve immediately.  

 - Stuff


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