When I made ossobuco yesterday, it was the first time I’d made this classic Italian dish, but it certainly won’t be the last. The gentle, long cooking required makes it ideal for the Aga. I accompanied it with risotto alla Milanese, even though I tend to think risotto is not ideal for Aga cooking, because of the need constantly to stir it, but in this case it was in my view necessary and worth it. I know there are ways to make risotto in the oven, and I have successfully made it that way, but on this occasion I wanted to be as sure as possible to achieve the authentic Italian dish, so I stood at the simmering plate, stirring away contemplatively, for twenty minutes or so.
The ossobuco recipe I used was Anna Del Conte’s from her book Gastronomy of Italy which my son gave me for Christmas. It’s a wonderful book. The risotto recipe I used was also from this book.
(You will need a large sauté pan or shallow casserole with a tight fitting lid which will hold the ossobuchi in one layer)
Tie the ossobuchi around and across with string as you would a parcel, then lightly coat them in flour mixed with 1 teaspoon of salt
Heat the olive oil in the pan you have chosen and brown the floured ossobuchi on both sides. I started them on the simmering plate and then transferred them to the floor of the roasting oven. Cook them for just 4 or 5 minutes on each side. Remove them to a dish
Add 25g of the butter to the pan followed by the onion and celery. Add a little salt and soften without browing (shouldn’t take more than 10 or 15 minutes in the simmering oven)
Return the meat and any juices to the pan on the simmering plate
Heat the wine quickly in a pan on the boiling plate and pour it over the meat and boil to reduce by half (could move it to the boiling plate for this but keep an eye on it so it doesn’t completely evaporate)
Heat the stock in the same pan you used for the wine and pour this over everything and add some black pepper. Put the lid on the pan and transfer it to the simmering oven for at least three but maybe four or five hours (as you know, it will not spoil in the simmering oven), depending on when you want to eat
Transfer the ossobuchi to a warmed dish, removing the string. Keep warm in the warming oven, on the warming plate or near the Aga covered in foil
Add the remaining butter, having cut it into a few small pieces, to the sauce and as soon as the butter has melted, remove the pan from the heat; you don’t want the sauce to boil
Pour the sauce over the meat
Mix the gremolata ingredients together. I spinkled mine over the ossobuchi, but have re-read the recipe and see I was supposed to stir it into the sauce before pouring it over. Perhaps it would have tasted even better if I’d done it the “correct” way!
Hello, it’s been a while. Rest assured I’ve been cooking and have plenty to share with you, but somehow I have not got around to doing it yet. My youngest son has got me into sourdough baking, which I am enjoying far more than I ever expected. It’s challenging though and while my loaves are improving, I’m not ready to write about it yet.
Today I want to tell you about ragù: I’ve been experimenting a little with it lately. Ragù simply means meat sauce and I suspect in Italy it’s one of those dishes for which there are as many recipes as there are cooks. Here we tend to call it “bolognese sauce”, “spaghetti bolognese” being one of this country’s most popular dishes, despite the fact that in Bologna they always serve their ragù with tagliatelle and never spaghetti.
I’m sure you all have your favourite ragù/bolognese recipe. I wrote about mine here, as it’s used to make Tamasin Day-Lewis’s lasagne, but recently I’ve made some adjustments to it to make it work better in the Aga. I felt the finished sauce contained a little too much liquid; one of the best Aga tips I’ve been given is to use less liquid than a recipe prescribes because in an Aga there’s no evaporation. It’s why Aga dishes are always so deliciously succulent and moist. The result of my tweaks is a thicker sauce and I’m very pleased with it. I’ve also been making another ragù recipe which my eldest son recommended to me; it’s incredibly simple and delicious and comes from The Silver Spoon, the English edition of the bestselling Italian cookbook, Il Cucchiaio D’Argento. I own the Italian version, a Christmas present from my sons, but for some reason it doesn’t contain this specific recipe. You will see that the addition of garlic to this recipe is optional. I used to think garlic was essential to ragù but it turns out Italians often don’t add it. I urge you to try this recipe without; I was surprised at how flavourful it was. The wine is also optional but I confess I have only ever made this version with wine.
I have only used minced beef in these two recipes but you can use half beef/half pork or veal. Ragù is also delicious with the addition of a little crumbled up Italian sausage. It must be a proper Italian one though, for reasons of both flavour and texture.
Anyway, here are the two ragù recipes for you, with quantities adjusted to make them work well in the Aga.
(Sorry, not sure how many people this large quantity will serve, but I’d say at least 10)
1 kg minced beef (not extra lean: you need the fat for flavour)
2 onions, chopped
3 carrots, diced
2 sticks celery, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, crushed
3 tbs olive oil
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp tomato purée
100ml white wine
Take a large casserole or saucepan and heat the oil and butter in it on the simmering plate
Add the onions and stir until coated in the oil and butter
Cover and place in the simmering oven for 10 minutes or so before stirring in the carrots and celery and returning to the simmering oven until all the vegetables (the soffritto) are soft
Place the pan on the boiling plate, stir in the crushed garlic and add the mince and some salt and pepper
Stir it in while breaking it up with your wooden spoon. You could also use a fork
Once the meat is brown all over move the pan to the simmering plate
Add the tomato purée, bay leaves and milk and simmer for about 5 minutes before adding the wine
After another 5 minutes of simmering, stir in the passata, cover and place in the simmering oven and cook for a minimum of 3 hours. You can always add a little water if it looks dry but it probably won’t. I sometimes uncover it for an hour or so towards the end
Serve with tagliatelle (or spaghetti as in my photo above), which has been tossed with the ragù in the pan, and lots of grated parmesan
2 tbsps olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 celery stick, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 clove garlic, crushed (optional)
250g minced beef
1 tbsp concentrated tomato purée
120ml dry white wine (optional)
Gently heat the butter and olive oil in a heavy based saucepan on the simmering plate and add the onion. Cover and cook in the simmering oven for 10-15 minutes until translucent
Add the carrot and celery and cover and cook for a further 20 minutes or until all the vegetables are soft
Stir in the crushed garlic, if using, and then add the steak, with your pan on the boiling plate, breaking it up with a wooden spoon and perhaps a fork too
Cook for a few minutes until all the pinkness of the meat has gone
Remove to the simmering plate and stir in the tomato purée
Stir in the wine, if using. If not, stir in the equivalent quantity (120ml) of water
Season with salt and pepper and bring it up to the boil and if it’s looking dry add some more water: perhaps another 100ml
Cover and transfer to the simmering oven and cook for a minimum of three hours, adding more water if you think it needs it. This also applies if you added wine initially