Ragù and blue cheese baked pasta
- August 2014
- Hands-on time 2 hours, oven time 3-4 hours
A flavour-packed ragù and blue cheese baked pasta that’s a fantastic-tasting labour of love. Perfect for feeding a hungry crowd.
- 40.8g fat (18.7g saturated)
- 43.7g protein
- 39.6g carbs (9.7g sugars)
- 3.9g fibre
- 1g salt
For 12 servings
- 500g macaroni or rigatoni
- 100g parmesan, grated
For the ragù
- 500g British ox cheek, cut into 2cm cubes (or see tips)
- 500g British rose veal shin, cut into 2cm slices as for osso buco (ask your butcher, or see tips)
- 500g British free-range boneless pork shoulder, cut into 2cm slices (or see tips)
- 50ml rapeseed oil
- 3 small onions, finely chopped
- ½ tsp five-spice powder
- 2 celery sticks, finely chopped
- 1 carrot, finely chopped
- 30g dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in hot water to cover, then drained and chopped (reserve the soaking liquid)
- 500ml whole milk
For the tomato sauce
- 100ml extra-virgin olive oil
- 100g speck (lightly smoked Italian ham; find it in large supermarkets or delis) or pancetta, finely diced
- 200g shallots, sliced
- 2 garlic cloves, very finely sliced
- 250ml dry white wine
- 2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
- 6 fresh thyme sprigs
- 5 fresh basil sprigs
- 2 tsp caster sugar
For the cheese sauce
- 250g mascarpone or ricotta
- 125ml double cream
- 75g gorgonzola dolce, broken into small chunks
- 2 medium free-range egg yolks
- Take the meat for the ragù out of the fridge and let it come up to room temperature, then season with salt and pepper. Heat the rapeseed oil in a large, flameproof casserole. When the oil starts to shimmer, add the meat in batches (don’t overcrowd the dish) and fry over a medium-high heat, turning once, until browned all over. Transfer the browned meat to a plate, leaving the pan on the hob but reducing the heat to medium.
- Heat the oven to 120°C/fan100°C/gas ½. Add the onions, five-spice powder, celery, carrot and porcini to the pot and cook for 10 minutes, stirring, until softened and golden.
- Return all the meat to the casserole, pour in the milk and add the porcini soaking liquid. Bring to a simmer, then cover with a lid and cook in the oven for 3-4 hours until the meat is tender and falling apart.
- About an hour before the end of the meat cooking time, make the tomato sauce. Heat the extra-virgin olive oil in a large pan, then fry the speck/pancetta over a medium-high heat until it begins to crisp. Add the shallots and cook for 5-10 minutes until soft and translucent. Add the garlic to the pan and cook for 5 minutes more. Add the white wine and bubble to reduce by half, then add the tomatoes, herbs and sugar. Season, then simmer very gently for 30 minutes or until the liquid is reduced by half.
- When the meat is tender, remove the casserole from the oven and leave to rest for 15 minutes. Lift the meat out of the liquid into a bowl, using tongs or a slotted spoon, then put the casserole on the hob and simmer until the liquid has almost completely evaporated.
- Remove and discard the bones from the cooked veal. Return all the meat to the casserole and shred it using 2 forks. Pour over the tomato sauce, then simmer for 20 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary (see tips).
- Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil, then add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain, reserving a ladleful of the cooking liquid. Meanwhile, make the cheese sauce by mixing all the ingredients with a balloon whisk in a large bowl until almost smooth.
- To assemble, mix the warm pasta with the tomato ragù, adding some of the reserved water if the mixture is too thick. Transfer to a 2.5 litre ovenproof dish, then spoon over the cheese sauce and sprinkle with the parmesan. Cook under a hot grill for 5 minutes or until the top is browned and glazed, then serve.
Food team’s tips If you prefer not to use veal and ox cheek, or you don’t have a good butcher nearby, you can omit them and make the dish with 1.5kg boneless pork shoulder, which will save you having to remove the bones in step 6.
Don’t be alarmed by the appearance of the meat mixture. The milk solids will separate out, which doesn’t look very appealing but gives the dish a fantastic flavour.
The bulk of the work can be done in advance. Make the meat and tomato filling up to the end of step 6, then cool and freeze for up to 3 months. Defrost fully before reheating, then continue from step 7 but cook in the oven at 180°C/fan160°C/gas 4 for 30 minutes instead of grilling in step 8. If not freezing, the filling will benefit from a night or two in the fridge, covered, to allow the flavours to mingle.
Head to Italy (where else?), Sicily to be precise, and look for a red made from the nero d’avola grape, with a ripe blackberry flavour.
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