The ragù con carne over spaghetti alla chittarra is the dish that most reminds me of my grandparents’ relationship: it cooks for very long and when ready it takes on a particular color, somewhere between dark red and brown, that always makes me think of their dark bond.

This recipe changed as we let go of some of the traditions of the Abruzzi. It assumed a Neapolitan flare. In the beginning it was always made with mutton, then we switched to beef, even putting a little butter in it at the end. But the pasta was always made by hand in the morning and cut with the “guitar” (chitarra). If you don’t want to make pasta by hand, this sauce is excellent with paccheri or if you are gluten free you can use a gluten free pasta, or put it on polenta.

The other great virtue of this dish is that it provides both un primo e un secondo, since it requires a full roast cooked in sauce. In my mind this is the great difference between Northern and Southern  sauces: hamburger vs. whole roast. In the south of Italy, at weddings and for festive meals, it is important to look like signori (noble and rich), hence portions must be large, courses multiple and meat present. To do this with little money takes invention! In the 1950s, residents of a region like Emilia Romagna—rich in cheeses, cows, cured meats and produce—could express wealth by throwing two pounds of ground veal and pork in their pasta sauce and still have money left for a prosciutto appetizer, a roasted chicken and more. Most of the southern regions, however, were still strikingly poor. Remember that the original Neapolitan pizza had no cheese on it, just tomatoes and oregano.

Back to our dish. This ragù allows you to turn a tough piece of meat into a masterpiece through slow cooking and the power of fat (much in the same way that southern U.S. barbeque does). BY PAOLA FERRARIO

 

BEEF RAGU
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Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. 24-48 hours before cooking your ragu, wash, dry and then rub your chuck roast with the 2 1/4 teaspoons of salt. Return to the fridge. When you are ready to cook the recipe, proceed with the below steps.
  2. Mince the carrots, onion and celery. Some people use a food processor but I prefer my half-moon knife because it allows me to keep the vegetables slightly larger than when they are minced in the processor.
  3. In a heavy bottom pan (I prefer ceramic coated), begin to sauté the minced vegetables with oil and lard (or butter). Add some salt and paprika. On a slow flame cook and stir until the onion becomes translucent. Move the vegetables to one side. Pat the roast dry and add it to the pot. Brown each side, then add the tomatoes. Lower the heat to the lowest setting possible, to keep at a very low simmer; if necessary, use a heat diffuser. Add the whole glove of garlic and bay leaf, and sprinkle in a little more salt. Cook for about 8 hours, turning the roast every 2 hours. (You may use an electric slow cooker if you like.) I know that the dish is ready from the color and consistency of the sauce: dark red-brown with a golden circle of oil emerging at the top. But a simpler way to know is by dipping bread in it after about 6 hours and tasting it, adding further salt if needed.
  4. Use part of the sauce for your pasta, I do not put cheese on it but if you’d like to use some I would opt for a young pecorino, not Parmesan. Slide the meat in quarter-inch-thick-pieces and lay on a platter with sauce beneath it and on top.
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. 24-48 hours before cooking your ragu, wash, dry and then rub your chuck roast with the 2 1/4 teaspoons of salt. Return to the fridge. When you are ready to cook the recipe, proceed with the below steps.
  2. Mince the carrots, onion and celery. Some people use a food processor but I prefer my half-moon knife because it allows me to keep the vegetables slightly larger than when they are minced in the processor.
  3. In a heavy bottom pan (I prefer ceramic coated), begin to sauté the minced vegetables with oil and lard (or butter). Add some salt and paprika. On a slow flame cook and stir until the onion becomes translucent. Move the vegetables to one side. Pat the roast dry and add it to the pot. Brown each side, then add the tomatoes. Lower the heat to the lowest setting possible, to keep at a very low simmer; if necessary, use a heat diffuser. Add the whole glove of garlic and bay leaf, and sprinkle in a little more salt. Cook for about 8 hours, turning the roast every 2 hours. (You may use an electric slow cooker if you like.) I know that the dish is ready from the color and consistency of the sauce: dark red-brown with a golden circle of oil emerging at the top. But a simpler way to know is by dipping bread in it after about 6 hours and tasting it, adding further salt if needed.
  4. Use part of the sauce for your pasta, I do not put cheese on it but if you’d like to use some I would opt for a young pecorino, not Parmesan. Slide the meat in quarter-inch-thick-pieces and lay on a platter with sauce beneath it and on top.

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