Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Farmer’s Market Ragu

Visiting our local farmer’s market Sunday I was determined to use only ingredients I found there to make dinner. The problem was not in finding enough gorgeous ingredients, rather deciding which to choose: seafood, gourmet sausages, cheeses, produce, organic meats even an Italian guy selling fresh pasta. I wanted to make an economical supper and decided on fresh pasta with a sauce of organic beef, porcini mushroom powder and a good measure of Parmesan. All was going swimmingly until I made my last stop at the Italian guy’s stall and asked for enough pasta for four adults (in our family, 2 adults + 4 kids = 4 adult portions). He layered some linguine into a pretty brown box (I should have been tipped off by the niceness of the box) and handed it to me. I placed the it into my basket and asked how much, to which he replied, ‘£10’ (that’s $16).  I was too much of a baby to hand the pasta back to him, so I gulped hard and gave him a tenner. What are you gonna’ do? My cheap dinner turned out to be rather dear—but it was delicious all the same.

Because there are so few ingredients in this sauce, it is important to use the very best you can afford (not $16 per pound pasta, but...) Normally I say that bouillon cubes can replace beef stock, but not here—use the best stock you can get your hands on. And use the best beef you can find.

The Porcini powder amps up the beefy flavour-- It's like magic!

2 tablespoons dried Porcini mushroom powder (directions below)
1 tablespoon (dessert spoon) olive oil
2 thin leeks, trimmed, using the tender white to light green part only, chopped
2 pounds organic or very good quality lean, minced (ground) beef
2 cups good quality beef stock
½ cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons (dessert spoons) flour
Salt and black pepper to taste
75 mls (1/4 cup) single cream
Parmesan cheese

1) Place a small handful of dried Porcini mushrooms into the bowl of a clean coffee grinder (one that has never been used to grind coffee), or pound in a mortar until pulverized. You should have about 2 tablespoons powder.

2) Sweat the leeks in olive oil until just soft, do not brown at all. Add in the mince beef and sauté until just barely cooked through, then add in the Porcini powder, stir and pour in beef stock. Bring to a gentle simmer. Shake the wine in a jar with the flour and pour into the simmering ragu—stir well. Bring back to a very gentle simmer and cook, GENTLEY for 30-60 minutes (check to make sure the sauce does not get too dry—add some water if it does). Just before tossing with pasta, drizzle in the cream and stir.

3) Cook 1 pound of pasta, drain and toss well with the sauce. Serve with lots of parmesan.

Serves 8 (adults)

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