I have seen (and tried) any number of versions of this traditional meat sauce. Some call for beef, pork, and chicken; others for beef and lamb (or castrato, the castrated male sheep). I have even seen versions with goose in the mix. My rendition here includes beef, pork, and lamb, all of which are readily available. Unlike other ragù, in which the cooked meat remains in the sauce, here it is removed. This is essentially a smooth sauce, but one that has been richly flavored from hours of simmering with the chunks of meat. The meat, by the way, would never be discarded by resourceful Italians: it is either served as a second course, or chopped finely and used as a stuffing for cannelloni or ravioli.
Portions: Makes about 6 cups-1.4 l
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil or olive oil (not extra virgin)
- 6 oz 170 g boneless beef chick roast, cut into 4 equal pieces
- 6 oz 170 g boneless pork shoulder, cut into 3 equal pieces
- 6 oz 170 g boneless lamb shoulder, cut into 3 equal pieces
- Kosher or fine sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 3 lb 1.4 kg whole or diced canned tomatoes, with their juice (about 7 1/2 cups)
- 2 tsbp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
Warm the vegetable oil in a large Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pot placed over medium heat. Season the pieces of meat with a little salt and pepper and add them to the pot. Brown for 3 to 4 minutes, then turn the pieces to brown the other side, another 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the pieces to a deep plate or bowl. Set the pot aside. Pass the tomatoes through a food mill fitted with the disk with the smallest holes. Discard the solids. Set the milled tomatoes aside. Return the pot to medium heat and add the extra virgin olive oil. Stir in the onion, reduce the heat to medium-low, and sauté for about 5 minutes, or until the onion is shiny and beginning to soften. Pour in the tomatoes, raise the heat to medium high, and bring to a simmer. Return the meat to the pot and reduce the heat to medium low or low to maintain a gentle simmer. Cover partially and let the sauce simmer, stirring it from time to time, for about 3 hours, or until the meat is very tender and the sauce is thickened. Add a splash or two of water if the sauce thickens too much before the meat is done. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper, if you like. Turn off the heat. Remove the meat from the pot before using the sauce.
The ragù may be stored in a tightly lidded container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.