Tom Kerridge's Best Ever Dishes
Okay, I know practically everyone knows how to make a ragu. It’s one of the first things lots of people learn how to cook and one of the easiest things to make, but my version gets an extra, meaty push from roasting the mince to a VERY dark colour first. Also, the long, slow cooking really improves the depth of flavour and if you can leave it, once cooked, until the next day to eat, it improves even more.
One of my favourite do-ahead dishes, for sure.
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You Will Need
Preheat the oven to 190°C/Gas Mark 5.
Place the mince in a colander and rinse under running water. This sounds like an odd thing to do but it helps break it down and separate it into smaller pieces. Drain and pat dry with kitchen paper.
Put the mince in a roasting tin and roast for 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and stir with a wooden spoon. Tie the star anise and cloves in a muslin bag with kitchen string and add it to the mince. Return the meat to the oven and roast for a further 8–10 minutes; remove, stir again and put it back in the oven. You’re trying to get a very dark, even colour all over the mince, as if it’s been heavily fried – it will take about 40 minutes. Once it reaches this stage, remove from the oven, tip the meat into a colander and drain the fat. Place the meat and muslin spice bag on one side but do not turn off the oven.
Put the tomatoes on a baking tray. Dust them with the caster sugar and flaky sea salt. Bake for 15–20 minutes until softened. Remove from the oven and place under a hot grill or blast them quickly with a blowtorch to give them a slightly charred taste.
Warm a little oil in a large, heavy-bottomed casserole set over a medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring from time to time, until it begins to brown. Add the onion, celery, carrots and garlic to the casserole. Cook for 5 minutes until the vegetables begin to soften.
Stir in the sugar, dried oregano, bay leaves, red wine and vinegar. Bring to the boil and simmer until reduced by half.
Add the minced beef and spice bag, tomatoes, mushrooms and stock to the casserole and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down to a bare simmer and cook gently for 1½ hours, stirring from time to time, until the sauce has thickened and intensified. Stir in the fresh oregano and sage, season and leave to cool. The flavour will improve if the sauce is left overnight in the fridge. Remove the spice bag.
To make the white sauce, pour the milk into a saucepan with the onion, thyme and bay leaves and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat, cover the pan and leave to infuse for 15 minutes.
In a separate pan, melt the butter over a low heat. Add the flour and cook for 2–3 minutes, stirring. Slowly pour the infused milk into the pan through a fine sieve, stirring all the time until you get a thick, glossy sauce. Add the nutmeg and 150g of the Parmesan and stir for a couple of minutes until the cheese has melted. Remove from the heat, stir and season.
Preheat the oven to 190°C/Gas Mark 5.
Get yourself an ovenproof dish, approximately 30 x 20 x 10cm and pour a layer of mince into the bottom. Cover with pasta sheets, a layer of white sauce, a layer of pasta then the ragu again, and so on until you reach the top. Make sure you finish with a layer of white sauce. Sprinkle the remaining Parmesan on top. Bake for 30–45 minutes until warm in the centre and golden brown and bubbling on top.
Serve with a crisp green salad and some crusty bread.