Turkey and Vegetable Ragu

One of our longtime favorite dinners and that of many other families we know is ‘Spaghetti Bolognese’. This is the dish we parents feel we can really load up with vegetables and get away with it. The bowl full of pasta it comes with somehow creates so much excitement, especially among younger children, that everything else looses it’s threat. Of course there’s also the concentration it takes not to lose the pasta on it’s way from bowl to mouth and the shear pleasure of having tomato sauce all over little hands and faces.

Most likely, we all concoct our own versions of the traditional ‘ragu alla bolognese’. When done according to the books, it is made with half beef/half pork, white wine, milk, onion, celery, carrot and canned tomatoes and it is simmered for at least an hour or two to bring out all it’s delicious flavours. I have made it for years, mostly with beef, as there were no real alternatives in some of the places we lived. Whenever possible however, I try to get ground turkey thigh meat instead, which I love as a replacement of beef or pork in burgers, chilies and this ragu. I also add lot’s of vegetables and cut down on the meat part (better for the animals, us and the planet) and still tastes delicious. When in season, I stick in a couple of zucchinis, mushrooms, and a red or yellow pepper, on top of the carrots, onions, celery and garlic in the soffrito. I also use celery root instead of celery sticks, when it’s available, since it adds a lovely earthy taste. I cook it on very low heat for 2-3 hours which brings out all the wonderful complex flavors and creates a rich consistency, unlike the tomatoey, runny sauce you encounter so frequently on the children’s menu.

I make a huge pot full and freeze half of it. It’s a fantastic meal to come back to when you come home from a long day out, a weekend away or especially a holiday, when everybody is tired from the journey, laundry piles appear everywhere and the kids are in no mood for Indian take out. Grateful for my rare organisational skills, I pull the lovely frozen ragu out of the freezer, tip it into a large pot and slowly bring it back to life over low heat with the lid on. It takes about the same time to warm up as it takes to cook the pasta and the smell makes everyone happy to be back home.

Turkey and Vegetable Ragu

 

Serves 8

Ingredients

700g (1.5 lbs) dark turkey meat, preferably free-range (room temperature)

3 15 oz. cans chopped or whole plum tomatoes

1.5 cups of tomato paste

2 medium onions, peeled and diced

1/2 celery root or 2 sticks of celery, chopped

2 carrots, chopped

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 zucchinis, quartered lengthwise, and cut into 1/2″ (1cm) pieces

1 punnet field mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed and quartered

1 red or yellow pepper, seeded and diced

2 sprigs rosemary

2 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

1 pinch of red pepper flakes

1 glass red wine

Olive oil

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Method 

  1. Heat up 2 tablespoons of olive oil on medium heat in Dutch oven or heavy pot
  2. Add onion, celery root, carrot and garlic. Fry for 10 minutes
  3. Bash up fennel seeds with mortar and pestle or spice grinder and add to vegetables along with red pepper flakes. Fry for one more minute, then add ground turkey, rosemary sprigs, oregano and peppers (if using). Season with salt and pepper. Cook for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add tomatoes and wine, bring to boil before turning the heat down to low. Cover pot with lid slightly adjar and let ragu simmer for a couple of hours, stirring occasionally.
  5. About 15 minutes prior to serving, add zucchini and mushrooms. Continue to simmer.
  6. Serve with whole grain pasta and freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano.

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