Tuscan meat sauce is unlike everything else you know about meat sauce.
Amazingly attractive because of its simplicity, it never disappoints on flavour or texture. It is a very meaty sauce, exclusively made with whole pieces of meat, never ground, fresh vegetables and tomatoes. I use very inexpensive cuts of beef which are thinly sliced, and readily available in most supermarkets. The cut sold for beef sandwich is perfect for this.
There are certain variations on this sauce, some adding pork chops, for example. Beef should be dominant, however. If you use a combination of beef and pork, add half the amount of pork by weight, than the amount of beef.
Now, to make a true Tuscan Ragù, there are some rules to follow:
- never use ground meat;
- do not use butter or another type of fat than olive oil;
- do not use wine, water or broth;
- do not add milk or cream to the sauce;
- for a variation, you can add basil or dried porcini mushrooms.
I said in one of my very first posts that a tomato sauce should cook uncovered, because the condensation dilutes the taste of the tomatoes. It is still true. This is an exception to the rule however: the sauce should not cook covered for more than one hour, or the taste will suffer. It is not a good idea to cook this one for an entire day.
I have tried to chop the beef in various ways, with various instruments, and the best way to achieve good results is by chopping it finely with a very sharp knife. Don’t try putting it in a food processor or a grinder, it does not work. Greater gratification comes with patience. Put your favourite music on, and chop away.
This sauce will last 5 days in an airtight container in the refrigerator, and freezes well.
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 rib celery, finely chopped
350 g beef, thinly sliced
400 ml puréed tomatoes or Passata
salt and pepper to taste
450 g penne lisce or rigate
Parmigiano Reggiano, for serving
- Over medium-low heat, in a Dutch oven, cook the onion, carrot and celery with a pinch of salt until soft, about 30 minutes, stirring once in a while. Do not let the vegetables brown.
- Add the beef slices and cook for another 20 minutes, stirring once in a while and turning the slices, until the meat is no longer pink.
- Take the meat out and chop it finely, then return to the pot.
- Add the tomatoes, salt and pepper, and cook, covered, for one hour. Taste and adjust seasoning.
- During that time, cook the penne in salted boiling water until al dente and drain.
- Toss the penne with the sauce, add a bit of extra-virgin olive oil, the cheese, and serve immediately, with more cheese at the table.