Evan Funke's Ragù for the Ages

Evan Funke, chef-owner of Felix Trattoria in Venice, California and author of 'American Sfoglino,' shares his recipe for slow-simmered ragù and tips for making a perfect bowl of pasta.
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Evan Funke's Ragú for the Ages

Recipe by Evan Funke

Start to Finish: 5 hours, 50 minutes

Servings: 6

Ingredients

Passata Di Pomodoro

  • 2 cans (28 oz. each) peeled whole tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 small clove garlic, smashed
  • 1 sprig fresh marjoram
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt

Ragù

  • 2 1/4 lb. beef chuck, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1/2 lb. pork shoulder, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 5 oz. pancetta, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 5 oz. prosciutto di parma, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 5 oz. mortadella, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 large yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 4 stalks celery, roughly chopped
  • 1 carrot, roughly chopped
  • 5 oz. strutto (lard), cut into pieces
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups dry, fruity red wine (such as Sangiovese)
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken stock

Pasta

  • Salt
  • About 16 oz. (or 500 grams) pappardelle or tagliatelle
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for serving

Preparation

1. For the passata, pass the tomatoes with the juices through a food mill into a large bowl or pulse in a food processor until very smooth, about 1 minute.

2. In a large pot, heat the oil over medium-low until it begins to shimmer. Add the garlic and marjoram and cook, stirring often, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and kosher salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced slightly, about 30 minutes. Discard the garlic and marjoram. Set aside 2 cups of the passata for the ragù. Let the remaining passata cool.

3. For the ragù, using a meat grinder or a stand mixer and a grinder attachment fitted with a large die, grind the beef into a large bowl. Without cleaning the grinder between batches, grind the pork into the same bowl. Grind the pancetta, prosciutto, and mortadella into a separate medium bowl. Run the pancetta mixture through the grinder again. Run the onion, celery, and carrot through the grinder into another large bowl.

4. In a large heavy pot, melt the strutto over medium-high heat. Add the ground pancetta mixture. Cook, stirring often, until the fat renders, about 4 minutes. Add the vegetables. Cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are golden brown, about 15 minutes.

5. Add the ground beef and pork; season with kosher salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the beef and pork release their juices, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the wine and cook until the mixture begins to steam. Stir in the reserved 2 cups of passata and the stock. Reduce heat to low.

6. Gently simmer the sauce, stirring occasionally, until the beef and pork are tender and the flavors are concentrated, 5 to 7 hours.

7. Set aside 6 cups of ragù for the pasta. Let the remaining sauce cool.

8. Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta. Salt the water and add the pasta. Cook until al dente.

9. In another large pot, bring the reserved 6 cups of ragù to a rapid simmer over medium-high heat. Cook until the sauce reduces slightly, about 3 minutes. Add the butter and swirl until the sauce is smooth.

10. Using a large slotted fork, transfer the pasta from the cooking water to the ragù. Toss the pasta until coated. Add some of the cooking water to loosen the sauce, if needed. Mix 1 cup cheese into the sauce. Serve the pasta with more cheese.

Evan's Tips for Ragù: 

Buying the right tomatoes: "When you’re shopping for canned whole peeled tomatoes, look for the high-quality San Marzano variety. I like Bianco DiNapoli and Alta Cucina brands."

Pancetta, prosciutto di parma and mortadella: "Get thick pieces, not thin slices, of the cured meats at the deli counter. No meat grinder? Ask your butcher to grind it for you."

Olive oil vs. strutto (lard): "To keep the flavors authentically Bolognese, stay away from olive oil—olives don’t grow in Bologna— and stick to animal fats like lard or butter."

Choosing your pasta: "Homemade pasta is best, but your backup is high-quality dried. I like Spinosi brand tagliatelle or Garofalo brand pappardelle, which can both be found in stores or on Amazon."

Cooking the meat: "Don’t brown the ground meat. Searing will make it hard and dry in the sauce—the opposite of your goal of tender and luscious."

Combining the pasta and ragù: "Butter makes the ragù glossy and helps it cling better to the pasta. Adding just a few splashes of starchy pasta water will loosen the sauce and let the pasta swim deliciously in the ragù."