Nduja Ragu

Any mince, from goat to sausage, lamb, beef or veal, duck or chicken makes deliciously different ragu. I used good quality minced beef for this one and the background hint of spicy nduja gave soul and a hint of heat. As I happened to have some wrinkly cherry tomatoes in need of eating up, they went in the mix with finely diced carrot and onion, red wine and stock, everything simmering away filling the house with rich, comforting smells. Instead of the sweet little cherry tomatoes, you could, of course, use regular fresh tomato (with a spoonful of tomato puree to enrich the flavours), passata or tinned chopped tomatoes instead. I made the ragu for the freezer, by which I mean as standby food, usefully quick to heat up to pile over pasta or use in lasagne. Another idea, which I really like, is to pile the mince over baked aubergine halves. Cut a 1cm deep lattice in the lengthway halved aubs, smear with olive oil and bake for about 25 minutes at 180C until sagging and soft. A crumble of feta is good here, before the mince is piled over the top.

Serves 4

Prep: 25 min

Cook: 60 min, approx

1 onion

1 garlic clove

2 tbsp olive oil

sprig thyme

10 wrinkly cherry tomatoes

150g carrot

500g mince beef

½ tbsp flour

150ml milk

150ml red wine

250ml chicken stock (cube is fine)

½ tbsp/8g nduja

25g flat leaf parsley

Halve, peel and finely chop the 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 the oil in a spacious frying/sauté pan over a medium heat, stir in the onion and garlic with the thyme and a generous pinch of salt. Cook briskly, stirring often, as the onion begins to glow, reduce the heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until slippery soft, the garlic and thyme aromatic. Meanwhile, place the tomatoes in a bowl, cover with boiling water, count to 40 and watch as the skins puff, drain and use a fork and knife to scrape out the flesh. 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 milk, stirring as that bubbles into the meat then add the wine, stirring as that too bubbles away. Stir in roughly chopped tomatoes and juices, chicken stock, nduja 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 60 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 thyme stalk. Serve now or reheat later. I usually stir finely chopped parsley leaves into the ragu just before serving, adding butter and more parsley to the pasta.