Ragù is made very differently in each part of Italy. Up north ragù is usually made with ground beef whereas in the south whole pieces of meat are typically used creating one dish used both as a first course (condiment for the pasta) and second course (involtini or "braciole" as typically referred to in the south).
Today I am happy to share with you our original family recipe for freshly made tomato sauce and Braciole that is a main dish served almost every Sunday in many many Southern Italian households, as well as my honey's favorite dish of all time.
I have to be completely honest with you, this is not one of my preferred dishes simply because I'm not a big fan of tomatoes but it is always a hit and never EVER gets left over...
Ok so for this recipe you will need a sauce strainer and if you have a pressure cooker you with significantly reduce the cooking time.
I'm not going to be too specific with quantities because this really is a "taste as you go" recipe based on many variable factors such as sweetness and acidity of the type of tomatoes you use, the type of meat you choose to use, etc.
In this case I used 5 thinly sliced pieces of beef making 4 Braciole and cutting up the 5th slice into 4 sections adding it to the sauce as I will show you shortly.
Begin making the Braciole. Lay out the slices of meat adding a small piece of Pecorino Romano cheese to the center. Add a dash of salt and pepper to each slice.
Now fold the meat in half and fold in the sides eventually wrapping it up and holding it in place with a tooth pick as shown here:
Now chop up half of a medium size onion and add to the pot with about three table spoons of olive oil.
Let the meat simmer and make sure the heat is on low because you don't want to burn the onion, you simply want it to soften up and eventually melt into the sauce so the heat has to be very low.
You should see that the meat will slowly release water during cooking.
In a separate pot add the washed tomatoes cut up into pieces, the rest of the onion and a few fresh basil leaves. I used 2 San Marzano tomatoes and 5 vine ripened tomatoes. Do not add any water, any oil or any salt. You are simply letting the tomatoes cook on their own and you will see that they too release lots of water once cooked. The tomatoes should cook on medium heat for no more than 10 minutes.
This is what they should look like after 10 minutes on medium heat.
Once cooked you want to filter them using the sauce strainer. Just add the tomatoes to the strainer and filter into a bowl making sure to scrape the rest of the pulp off the bottom.
Now you have your freshly made tomato sauce that you can add to the meat.
In the meantime the meat should have released some water and once you hear it start to simmer go ahead and add the sauce.
Make sure to stir everything together and add a half a cup of water. At this point go ahead and taste it to see if it needs any extra salt, pepper and if you like you can add some chili pepper to spice it up.
You can now put the lid on the pressure cooker and leave it cook for about 30 minutes. If you don't have a pressure cooker you will have to cook on very low heat for a good 2 hours. The meat needs to really break down and become super tender in order to have a good ragu.
When the 30 minutes are up let the steam out from the valve, turn off the heat and open up to see what you have.
Look at that delicious ragù! If the sauce is too thick you can add another half cup of water and heat uncovered until you reach the right consistency.
Now you will find the meat breaks down very easily and is extremely tender. With this sauce you can dress any type of pasta and it will be fantastic, I assure you.
On another note, I bought a beautiful hutch for my dining room over the weekend!
Now since everybody who knows me knows that the term patience and I have absolutely nothing in common.... I had to take it home with me immediately and would in no way wait for transportation and the people at the furniture store were very nice and totally understood my immediate need for this hutch sooo they put the bottom half in my trunk and the top half on top on my car....securing it with...tape.
I was a little worried I have to admit ...but the guy was like "Lady, we've done this a million times...it works...just go slow..."
And that I did...I went very VERY slow.
You gotta love southern Italy...