- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 3 ounces pancetta or bacon, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup minced onion (1/2 medium onion, or 2 ounces)
- 2/3 cup minced celery (3 medium stalks, or 3 ounces)
- 2/3 cup minced carrot (2 medium carrots, or 3 ounces)
- 2 medium cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced
- 1/2 pound plus 2 ounces ground beef (10 ounces)
- 1/4 pound plus 2 ounces ground pork (6 ounces)
- 1/4 pound ground lamb (4 ounces)
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, altogether, plus probably a little more
- 1 teaspoon salt, plus a little more
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg — plus a little more, to taste
- 1 cup dry white wine or 3/4 cup dry white vermouth
- 35 ounces canned tomatoes — whole, chopped, or crushed (1 28-ounce can plus 1/2 of a 14-ounce can, or 2-1/2 14-ounce cans)
- 1 medium (14-ounce) can unseasoned tomato sauce
- sprinkling (1/16th teaspoon) red pepper flakes, plus probably a little more
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/2 dry cup red wine
- 1 cup water, plus more as the sauce cooks, in ½ cup increments
- Chop the pancetta by hand; pulse the onion, celery, and carrots in the food processor until fairly fine but not mushy.
- Heat the oil and butter in a large casserole and cook the vegetables and pancetta over medium heat for 2 or 3 minutes. Mince the garlic in the food processor, add to the vegetables, and stir another minute.
- Add the meats, the salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of the 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Raise the heat to high and cook, stirring, until the meat has lost its red color.
- Add the milk and cook until all the liquid has bubbled away. Be very careful not to let the mixture burn.
- Add the nutmeg and white wine and cook until the liquid has completely evaporated. Once again, be very careful not to let it burn.
- Pulse the tomatoes (if necessary) in the food processor, then add to the pot, along with the sugar, the red wine, another 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper, the tomato sauce, a tiny bit of red pepper, and the water. Taste carefully for more salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Bring to a simmer, then place on a heat diffuser, reduce the heat, and cook uncovered at the barest simmer for 3 to 8 hours, stirring from time to time, and adding water from time to time. Don’t let it burn! Do not remove any oil that rises to the surface — stir it back in. Cook down to a nice consistency. The longer the cooking the better the sauce, apparently, at least up to 8 hours — after that there may be a point of diminishing returns.
- Serve on buttered pasta with Parmesan cheese.
This recipe was inspired by that detailed by Marcella Hazen in her iconic book but has been modified in several small ways and has been completely rewritten. It is, however, well within the classic definition of a ragù as promulgated by the Italian Academy of Cooking.