This post is the recipe that started me on the road to food blogging...Caramelised Ragu With Hidden Veg Pasta Sauce. Basically what we in Australia would call Spaghetti Bol.
I entered a recipe competition run by Super Food Ideas - a leading Australian recipe magazine - called "The Great Aussie Spag Bol Challenge 2016" and was lucky enough to be chosen as one of the four finalists.
I didn't actually WIN the competition, but still as they say..."it was a privilege just to be nominated!" I didn't realise how true that sentiment was until that competition. Being a finalist gave me the boost in confidence I needed to start the food blog that had been on my mind for years.
This sauce is a rich and meaty ragu, packed with veggies (that the kids won't see) and with a super easy secret ingredient that everyone has in their fridge - milk! I know it sounds weird but I promise you it's not! In fact, anyone who doesn't know about the milk won't even realise it's in there. When the milk cooks down it adds a richness that makes this much more than just plain old Spag Bol!
My recipe now has red wine vinegar, which I didn't have in my original recipe. When sharing this recipe with a foodie friend of mine, Lochie, he mentioned he puts vinegar in his spag bol...so I thought I would try it and he was right - it really helps round out the flavour. Thanks for the tip Lochie!
The other great thing about this recipe is that it freezes like an absolute dream! I always have some in my freezer, and it's great as an emergency dinner because it doesn't take long to defrost if you freeze it flat in ziplock plastic bags (L O V E those!) in 2 portion sizes.
Caramelised Ragu With Hidden Veg
- 15 g dried porcini mushrooms
- 3 carrots cut into thirds
- 4 celery stalks cut into thirds
- 1 leek - white part trimmed washed and cut into thirds
- 2 zucchini cut into thirds
- 2 x 400g cans whole peeled tomatoes
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 500 g beef mince / ground beef
- 500 g pork mince / ground pork
- 150 g shortcut bacon chopped
- 2 tbsp. fresh rosemary leaves - finely chopped or 2 small tsp dried
- 1 tbsp. fresh thyme leaves or 1 tsp dried
- 4 garlic cloves crushed/minced
- 3 cups whole milk
- 2 cups beef stock
- 1 tbsp. red wine vinegar
- salt and pepper to taste
- Place mushrooms, in a small heatproof bowl and add enough boiling water to just cover. Set aside for 10 mins to rehydrate.
- In a food processor in batches, finely mince (but don't puree) carrots, then celery and leek, then zucchini and mushroom (and liquid). Set these all aside in one bowl.
- Process the tomatoes until smooth and set aside.
- Heat the oil in a large, heavy based pot and fry mince for 10-15 mins, or until all the liquid has evaporated and you are left with a layer of "brownings" (not burnings though!) in the bottom of the pot.
- Add rosemary, thyme and garlic. Cook for 1-2 mins until garlic is fragrant but not browned.
- Add the chopped bacon & vegetable mixture and cook, stirring occasionally for 15-20 mins or until vegetables have softened, the liquid has evaporated and a new layer is formed on the bottom.
- As they cook they vegetables will release moisture which will deglaze the bottom of the pot, releasing all the flavour from the brownings into your sauce. Make sure to scrape the bottom of the pot as this happens, this allows a new layer of brownings to develop.
- Reduce heat to low, add 1 ½ cups of milk to again deglaze the pan (scraping as you go) and cook for 10-15 mins or until milk has evaporated and you have another layer at the bottom.
- Repeat with the remaining milk.
- Add tomatoes, beef stock and vinegar to again deglaze the bottom of the pot and simmer for 30 mins, or until sauce thickens and deepens in colour.
- Serve with pasta and parmesan.