I remember being a schoolboy back in the 90s and pasta sauces were becoming a thing. My Mum (known as the poisoner), decided that we should have pasta with everything. Some nights it was with fish fingers (yep), some particularly terrible nights it was pasta and quorn escalopes (no sauce), and then she discovered Ragu.
I’ve been avoiding this recipe for the last year because to my poor scarred mind Ragu is slimey lukewarm tomatoish sauce over some slightly wet pasta. And to be honest, I would probably still be avoiding it if my lover hadn’t told me to make it. I still wasn’t everso keen on the idea until my lover said that Gino D’acampo was on the radio and said that you don’t need to eat Ragu with pasta, and it should be really meaty – so I was sold! Hurrah!
To make this for four you will need: garlic oil, 125g pancetta (cubed), 500g lamb mince, 75g caramelised onions, 80ml Marsala (I used some leftover white wine), 400g tin chopped tomatoes, 75g green lentils, and 50g grated Red Leicester cheese. Nigella recommends using caramelised onions from a jar, but I couldn’t find it and had to make my own by finely chopping an onion and slowly frying it with butter and a bit of sugar.
I’m going to track down a jar of these onions before I make it again, and also see if the lentils come in a jar like capers – just to cut down on waste.
Firstly heat 2 tablespoons of garlic oil in a medium saucepan (with lid) and fry the pancetta until it starts to go crispy, then add the lamb (break it up as you stir it around while it browns)
Add the caramelised onions, the Marsala, the tin of tomatoes, the lentils, and 125ml of water, then bring to the boil. Simmer for 20 minutes then serve with grated cheese.
It was really tasty – good thing too cos half went in the freezer – next time I make it I’ll simmer it for slightly longer or at a slightly higher temperature so there’s less juice, but all in all I’d say Nigella’s Rapid Ragu was a success. Hurrah!
Nigella Express, by Nigella Lawson (Chatto & Windus 2007 ISBN 9780701181840)