Often when I go to an Italian restaurant, it is hard finding something to order that doesn’t have dairy as a main ingredient. If I find pasta with ragu, meat sauce, on the menu, though, I am usually in luck. And while I always enjoy a rich ragu over pasta, I have never tried making one myself. Until now.
The inspiration for my ragu came from recipes by Mario Batali and Rachael Ray, and from what I had available. I had some sausages in my freezer, so I paired those with some ground veal as my meat base. Both recipes called for white wine, but I had none, so I used some red wine, a nice chianti, instead. The main inspiration, however, was finding an intriguing packaged pappardelle at Trader Joe’s the most recent time we were there. When I saw that, the first thing that popped into my mind was “ragu.”
Veal and Sausage Ragu with Pappardelle
1/2 lb. ground lamb
1 lb. sweet italian sausage, casings removed
2 tbsp. olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 large onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped into small pieces
3 Holland eggplants
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper
1/2 cup red wine
1/2 cup veal stock
1 can crushed tomatoes (28 ounces)
1-2 tbsp. sugar
A dozen fresh basil leaves, chopped
1 8-ounce package of TJ’s lemon pepper pappardelle, cooked per package instructions
Grated vegan mozzarella cheese (optional)
Warm the olive oil in a medium skillet or saute pan, and crumble the veal and sausage into the pan and let them brown, turning once or twice to make sure all the meat is evenly browned.
Add the chopped onions and carrots and cook for a few minutes.
The secret ingredient for this dish for me was the eggplant. My friends, nowhere have I ever seen anyone put eggplant in a ragu. Heaven knows, putting eggplant probably disqualifies this dish from being a ragu. But I saw those lovely small Holland eggplants in the supermarket, and the little devil over my left shoulder told me that they would taste wonderful chopped and added to my ragu. So I put them in there. To me, with their meaty but also soft texture, they are a nice counterpoint to the meats in the dish.
So add the eggplants and let them start to cook, maybe give the meat and vegetables and eggplant 5 minutes to really start to marry.
Now it is time to add the crushed tomatoes and bay leaf. Stir it well to get everything well-mixed, then bring it to a simmer and let it cook for at least 10 minutes, uncovered. Yes, if you use a saute pan as I did, some of the tomato is going to splatter onto the stovetop surface. So you might want to use a deeper dish than I did.
But once the ragu has cooked well, then turn off the burner, hunt around for that pesky bay leaf, remove it and take your chopped basil leaves and add them to the dish. Stir slowly, mixing in the basil and allowing it to gently soften.
Then you are ready to serve! Remember, as the Trader Joe’s pappardelle instructions suggest, not to overcook your pappardelle.
And if you’re like me, and you have some good vegan mozzarella around, you’ll want to grate some of that coarsely over the dish when plating (Daiya Mozzarella Shreds would work great, too). With the green of the basil and the red of the ragu, it makes an Italian flag of color. And what your eyes begin, your stomach will continue: to enjoy this rich, hearty dish, and eagerly come back for seconds!