Mine started with bacon from Amor Gardens and Pork, and ground beef from Amor Beef. Both are excellent local farms – and as their names suggest, they’re run by brothers. Two farm families, just down the road from each other… I also used our own garlic, some home-canned tomatoes, and carrots from Countryside Orchard. Our carrots are in the high tunnel, but little sweet babies because I planted them too late and now the day length is too short. They’ll be great premium carrots in a couple of months, though!
Ground Beef Ragu
A ragu is an Italian sauce or stew, made with tomatoes, ground meat, vegetables, and wine, and cooked for a very long time. Blognese sauce is a variation on a ragu that most of us are familiar with - though, in that case, a specific regional variation that is a bit heavier on tomato than most.
Ragus are frequently used with pasta, especially spaghetti. But they can go on just about anything. Or, in the case of this week's Pie of the Week, in anything, or at least a calzone. They are rich, hearty, and full of flavor!
Slice the bacon crosswise into thin strips. Add the bacon to a cold, heavy pot (an enameled cast iron dutch oven is my preferred vessel. Don't use uncoated cast iron - we're going to be simmering an acidic food for a long time, which can damage the seasoning and give an undesirable metallic taste to the food). Turn the heat to medium-low, and let the fat render, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes.
Just before the bacon begins to crisp up, add the onion, garlic, carrot, and celery, along with a splash of olive oil if more fat is needed. Season with salt (not too much - remember the bacon is salty!) and pepper, bay leaves, and rosemary, and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the veggies are softened and the onion is translucent.
Add the beef, increase the meat to medium, season with (a tiny bit of) salt and pepper. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the beef begins to brown.
Add the catsup, and cook until the color darkens.
Increase the heat to medium-high. Add the wine, using a wooden spoon to deglaze the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the wine has reduced almost entirely.
Add the milk, and reduce it again. There should be very little liquid remaining in the pan (but be careful not to burn it - stir!).
Add the tomatoes, and about half a jar/can of water. Stir, and bring up to a slow simmer.
Add the basil sprigs and parmesan rind if you have one. Let barely simmer, stirring every now and then, for 3 hours to all day, uncovered. The longer the better! You may need to add a bit more water if it begins to dry out too much.
Remove the parmesan rind and herb stems, and chill in the fridge. It's better the next day!
Reheat to serve, over pasta, on a pizza, in a calzone, or on a spoon...