1 to 1½ hours preparation, 4-5 hours cooking. Serves 8, or 4 with leftovers for conversion to Chili con Carne. This takes a bit of time to prepare, but can be done in the morning and left in the oven for the rest of the day. It's worth the effort!
25ml olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2-3 sticks celery, finely chopped
1 large carrot, finely grated
450g minced pork
450g minced beef
500ml/1 pint milk
1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
½ bottle white wine
2 x 400g tinned Italian plum tomatoes
500g tomato passata
Prepare the soffrito: in a large cast-iron casserol dish, gently sweat the onion and celery in the olive oil over a low heat on the hob until translucent, then add the grated carrot and continue gently frying for another 5 minutes or so
Turn up the heat and add the pork and beef mince. Stir to ensure the meat is well broken up, and cook until browned
Add the pint of milk and nutmeg and simmer vigorously until the milk has evaporated. Stir occasionally
Add the wine (it should just cover the mixture) and simmer vigorously until it has mostly evaporated
Add the passata and the tomatoes (if using whole tomatoes, chop up in once in the pan)
Add salt to taste, but it should be well seasoned
Cover the casserole with the lid and place into a preheated oven at 130°C for at least 4 hours
Check after 3 hours and add some water if it's looking too dry. You can cook for even longer by adding a little extra water at the beginning and setting the oven to 120°C, or for less time by cooking at a slightly higher temperature
Serve with pappardelle, tagliatelle or (non-traditionally but popularly) spaghetti, cooked as per instructions in well-salted water. The sauce should be mixed through the pasta and not served as a blob on top. There's enough sauce for around 1kg of pasta, or half will do 500-600g, which should be enough for four hungry people. Top with some grated parmiggiano. This dish is popular with picky eaters who don't like to see chunks of vegetables as the fine chopping and long cooking time means that most of them have dissolved. If you have leftovers, this ragu makes a brilliant conversion to a Chilli con Carne, for an additional day or two of dinners.
Use 5% pork and beef mince, use semi-skimmed milk and replace the olive oil with 1-cal spray. However, this quantity produces 8 portions at least, so even a tablespoon of olive oil ends up as only about ¼ teaspoon per serving. You could also forego the wine step, although the flavour won't be as good.