No, ragu is not just a brand of canned tomato sauce. Saturday night I cooked with a few friends. These are friends who enjoy my cooking and I love to cook for them. They look at me and smile when I add random things. They taste test. They say the necessary “yums”. They let me experiment on them and they always taste everything. Tom called me fearless. Chase looked skeptical as the polenta and ragu looked like “sauce on sauce”, but everyone tried it and I think (hopefully) everyone enjoyed it.
I brought home a dried mushroom mixture from Spain and soaked those in hot water for the sauce. Then used the 2 cups of mushroom liquid in the polenta. I didn’t calculate the time correctly with the other dishes, and the polenta was softer than I wanted it to be… but still tasty.
3 cups polenta
6-7 cups liquid (3 cups chicken broth, 2 cups mushroom broth, additional water)
Bring liquid to a boil and add polenta slowly, mixing all the while. Keep stirring until it gets to the right consistency. Add more hot liquid if necessary. It’s alright to simmer and cover, or if you have a ways before everything else is done, turn off heat, cover, and let set.
For the sauce I used Fredericksburg beef from the downtown farmers’ market, carrots from I think Simmons family farm, green garlic from Milagro, and the rest I had in the fridge/cupboard:
1 lb ground meat
1 large can diced tomatoes (I ran out of real tomatoes)
2 chopped fresh tomatoes
1 onion- diced
4-6 cloves garlic, chopped (not very finely) and green garlic if you have it
1-2 cups red wine (because it was there)
drained and chopped dried mushrooms
Saute beef. Remove from pan. Saute onion, carrots for 2 minutes, add garlic. Saute until soft. Add ground meat. Add tomatoes (canned and fresh). I cooked this down for a few minutes and decided it needed more liquid and flavor (I’m not a fan of the canned tomato taste, and garlic and red wine go a long way here). Cover and let simmer while everything else is being prepared and you’re busy eating rice crackers with goat cheese and your friends are eating delightful bruschetta. Add salt and pepper as needed. Ooh- and I threw some fresh oregano in there too. And pecorino grated into the bowls at the end.
Here’s the thing. This recipe didn’t change for me in the last 10 years. I did not have to alter a thing to make it dairy* or gluten free. Well, perhaps I would’ve added butter. But olive oil and salt did the trick.