Beef Ragu with Crusty Polenta

This recipe is for a lovely rich but light ragu freshened up with cherry tomatoes. I don’t know about you but I love ragu and often make it to stash in the freezer for no-cook nights. Here it’s served with crusty slabs of polenta and a generous dusting of Parmesan. Full instructions for the polenta can be found in Polenta Chicken with White Wine, Rosemary and Black Olives but it’s easy to make from scratch with super-convenient instant polenta. It is also possible to buy slabs of set polenta; just cut slices and fry or griddle.

Serves 4

Prep: 25 min

Cook: 60 min approx

1 onion

1 garlic clove

3 sprigs thyme

3 tbsp olive oil

1 bay leaf

20 cherry tomatoes

1 carrot

500g beef mince

½ tbsp flour

150ml red wine

250ml chicken stock (cube is fine)

handful of young spinach

25g flat leaf parsley

set polenta (see intro)

extra freshly grated Parmesan

Halve, peel and finely chop onion and garlic. I always start ragu cooking in a spacious frying/sauté pan and then when all the ingredients are in the pan, transfer to a regular saucepan. So, heat 2tbsp oil in a spacious frying/sauté pan over a medium heat, stir in the onion and garlic with the sprigs of thyme, bay and a generous pinch of salt. Cook briskly, stirring often, as the onion begins to look glossy, reduce the heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until slippery soft, the garlic and thyme aromatic. Halve the tomatoes. Scrape and cut the carrots into small dice. Add the mince to the softened onion, stirring as it browns then dust with flour, stirring until disappeared. Add the wine, stirring as it bubbles away. Stir in tomatoes, chicken stock and carrot. Bring up to the boil then tip into a medium sized, lidded pan. Simmer, stirring for a few minutes then turn the heat very low and leave to simmer, giving the occasional stir, for at least 45 minutes until very thick, all the ingredients merged into a thick, luscious, juicy rather than wet sauce. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt. Fish out the bay leaf and thyme stalks – most of the leaves will have fallen off the stalks. Serve now or reheat later. I usually stir finely chopped parsley leaves into the ragu just before dishing up. To cook the polenta, heat remaining 1 tbsp oil in a reliably non-stick frying pan over a medium heat and cut the polenta into slabs. Cook for a couple of minutes a side to form a crust, use a fish slice to turn and repeat. Serve in the middle of plates lavishly dusted with fresh grated Parmesan and spoon over the hot ragu. Yum.