It’s a cold sunday night. Who wouldn’t want a nice hearty ragu?  I have this great ragu sauce recipe from the Cucina & Famiglia cookbook that can be used in many ways to create the perfect soothing winter meal.  The ingredients and technique are simple.  This sauce does need a long time to simmer and it tastes better the next day.  So, if you can make it a day ahead do it.  If you can’t make it a day ahead, don’t worry it will still be good and there will be plenty left over for another meal.  To make the sauce you need:  olive oil, stewing beef, country-style pork spareribs, roughly chopped onions, 3 garlic cloves, 1/2 cup of dry red wine, a can of tomato paste, canned whole tomatoes, fresh basil leaves and fresh or dried oregano.

The sauce is a typical braise.  You brown the meat in the olive oil.  Remove the cooked meat.  Add onion and garlic.  Add wine, tomato paste, and whole tomatoes.  Throw in basil and oregano and simmer for 30 minutes.

Then you add the meat back in, cover pot with lid slightly askew, and simmer for 2 hours or more.  You want the meat to be so tender that it falls apart in your fingers (and quickly ends up in your mouth).  That is it!  Just give the sauce a good amount of time to do its thing.

Meal 1:  Pasta with Ragu

When the sauce is ready, ladle it over some pasta and sprinkle liberally with grated parmesan cheese.  A little fresh parsley or basil would be nice.

Meal 2:  Lasagna with Ragu

Unless you invite a ton of friends or relatives over for dinner, you will have a lot of Tucci Ragu leftover.  You can freeze it.  Or, you can use it to make a simple and delicious lasagna.  To turn the sauce into lasagna you only need: a box of lasagna noodles, ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, an egg, and mozzarella cheese.  Cook the noodles.  Mix the ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese, egg and 2 cups of the ragu sauce.  Spray a small pan with cooking spray, add the noodles, then the sauce/cheese mixture.  Continue alternating until you run out of ingredients.  Sprinkle some mozzarella and Parmesan cheese on top.

Bake in the oven for 30 minutes.  And, dig in!

One huge pot of sauce — two great meals.  This sauce is a good weekend project.  Then, you can use it for a variety of meals during the week.

Ragu Tucci

from Cucina & Famiglia by Joan Tropiano Tucci and Gianni Scappin wit Mimi Shanley Taft

Note:  This sauce tastes better the next day.  So, if possible make it the day before you plan on serving it.

Ingredients

1/4 cup olive oil

1 pound stewing beef, trimmed of fat, rinsed, patted dry, cut into pieces

1 pound country style spareribs, trimmed of fat, cut in half, rinsed, patted dry

1 cup roughly chopped onions

3 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped

1/2 dry red wine

One 6-ounce can tomato paste

1 1/2 cups of warm water

8 cups canned whole plum tomatoes, mushed with your hands

3 fresh basil leaves

1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano leaves or 1 teaspoon dried

1.  Warm the olive oil in a stew pot over medium-high heat.  Sear the stewing beef until brown on all sides, about 10 minutes.  Remove from the pot and set aside in a bowl.  Brown the spareribs and set aside in a bowl.

2.  Stir in onions and garlic.  Reduce the heat to low and cook until onions soften and lose shape, about 5 minutes.  Stir in wine, scraping the bottom of the pot clean.  Add the tomato paste.  Pour 1/2 cup of the warm water in the can to loosen any residual paste and then pour the water into the pot.  Cook to warm the paste, about 2 minutes.  Add the tomatoes and remaining 1 cup of warm water.  Stir in basil and oregano.  Cover with the lid slightly askew and simmer to sweeten tomatoes, about 30 minutes.

3.  Return meat to the pot, along with any juices that have accumulated in the bowl.  Cover with the lid slightly askew and simmer, stirring frequently, until the meat is very tender and the tomatoes are cooked, about 2 hours.

Ragu Tucci Lasagna

Ingredients

2 cups of Ragu Tucci (recipe above)

1 pound of lasagna noodles, cooked according to instructions on box

1 15-ounce container of ricotta cheese

4 cups (16 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 egg, lightly beaten

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Spray a 13 X 9 inch baking dish with cooking spray.  Set aside a generous handful of mozzarella cheese.  Mix sauce, ricotta cheese, remaining mozzarella cheese, and egg in a bowl.

2.  Add a layer of noodles into the baking dish.  Then, add the sauce/cheese mixture and smooth over noodles.  Alternate noodles and sauce/ cheese mixture until you run out of ingredients.  Top with reserved mozzarella cheese and Parmesan cheese.  Bake for 30 minutes.  Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

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