Autumn has played through the calendar for some time, nestling into the meat of the season comfortably now. And although winter’s entrance isn’t trumpeted for a couple of months, the weather outside is in the midst of a transformation. Both the temperature and seasonal characteristics alter day by day, in both frequency and ferocity. The soft muted tones of fall have disappeared, settling in for the force of nature that winter brings. Frigid, blustering evenings. The first in a series of chapters to come.
Outside the rain battles on. And so does the gelid temperature, dipping lower than the night before. The only refrain is offered by the fireplace, crackling behind me as I escape inside. The storm worsens, digs in. Wind picks up, whistling between the tall tree tops. It rages on as my mind wanders to a place in the not so distant future. Equally vexatious and requiring reprieve. Chasing comfort.
The only clemency from the biting weather in this household is comfort. A hot fire, warm blanket, a warming cocktail or deep red and comfort food. For the rest of the year I retire those recipes, but come fall through winter I dust them off again and begin anew. Deep flavours, rich sauces, meaty foods and depth that’s built over hours on the stove. And I long for hours over a stove and the impending relief it brings.
Ragu. If it isn’t the best comfort food, it certainly ranks up high. It can be paired with a variety of recipes, aside from the traditional pasta. It is proven and still the prefered method in this house, although it works wonderfully in other dishes like polenta. But time after time we stray back to pasta as the vehicle for this incredibly flavourful ragu. So we continue to make it time after time.
And with the weather storming on outside, it was the perfect chance to make the ultimate comfort food. Again. And surely a few more times through the next couple of months. Ragu, wine and the fireplace. Not a bad way to hide away the night.
- 2 lbs. ground beef chuck
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 2 medium onions, finely chopped
- 1 carrot, coarsely chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, crushed
- 2 bay leaves
- 4 rosemary sprigs
- 1 large can chopped tomatoes (700ml)
- 2 tbsp. tomato paste
- 1 tbsp. red chilli flakes
- 4 cups beef stock
- 1 cups dry red wine
- 2 tbsp. superfine sugar
- sea salt & fresh cracked pepper
- fresh grated parmesan cheese, to serve
- fresh parsley, chopped, to serve
- Heat the oil in a large saucepan over high heat. Cook the onions, carrot and garlic for 5 minutes or until softened. Add the wine, scraping the bottom of the pan, and cook for 2 minutes or until the liquid reduces by half. In another pan over medium-high heat, add the beef and season generously, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, for another 5-7 minutes or until browned. Add the beef back to the saucepan along with tomatoes, paste, beef stock, sugar, salt and pepper, chilli, rosemary sprigs and bay leaves. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 20-25 minutes or until it thickens.
- Cook the pasta according to package directions, drain and return to the ragu sauce. Season to taste. Sprinkle with parmesan.
- Serves 4-6.