Pumpkin Ragu

This year for Pumpkinpalooza I’ve been experimenting with pasta and sauces incorporating pumpkin. My first experiment (pumpkin vodka sauce) was very successful. So successful! So successful I think I might prefer it to traditional vodka sauce– but I’m biased!

The thing is, I learned from the vodka sauce that pumpkin is very similar in texture and sweetness to tomato and seems to make a damned good tomato substitute; but with its own unique flair. It’s missing the tomato’s bright citrus acidity, but a little wine or vinegar fixes that (in the recipe, or in you– your choice).

So, next I was dying to try pumpkin in a bolognese sauce: Thick, meaty, pumpkin-y, whaaat? I don’t know why but I had an irresistible urge to try and what resulted was a delicious “softer” ragu than I’m used to. You decide, the recipe is below:

Pumpkin Ragu

Servings: 16

Prep Time: About 30 minutes
Cook Time: About 1 1/2 hours

Ingredients:
1 lb Ground lean ground beef
1 lb Ground pork or veal
1/4 lb Pancetta, diced
1 C Carrot, diced (about 2 medium carrots)
1 C Onion, diced (about 1 medium onion)
1 C Celery, diced (about 3 celery hearts)
2 C Pumpkin puree
1 C Chicken broth (low sodium)
1/2 C Red wine
1 C Heavy cream
1/2 C Water
6 Sprigs of Thyme
Salt
Pepper
Olive oil for frying
White Wine vinegar for deglazing

 

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Directions:
Dice your veggies and pancetta. This is a great opportunity to practice knife skills. You can see from the picture I still need lots of practice myself! But I won’t cry, I’ll just take a play from Julia Childs and make up for my lack with a swig of wine (you can too, I won’t tell).

 

In a 9″ dutch oven or similarly large sauce or stock pot, over medium heat fry up your pancetta until it is golden brown, then remove it and drain on some paper towels (about 4-6 minutes).

 

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Deglaze your pot with some wine vinegar and fry your veggies in the pancetta grease over medium heat (add olive oil if necessary) until they are soft and the onion is clear (about 5 minutes). Remove the veggies from the pot and set aside.

Deglaze your pot with some wine vinegar and repeat the process as before with the veggies, first browning the beef until cooked through, then the pork/veal (it’s okay to reserve your cooked ground meat with the pancetta, it’s all going together).

 

One more deglaze with the wine vinegar then add the stock, and thyme then simmer until reduced by half. Stir in the water, wine and pumpkin puree and stir until smooth. Bring to a simmer, then stir in your meats and veggies and finally the cream. Salt and pepper to taste then simmer on low for about an hour stirring occasionally until you have a nice, thick ragu (this gets better as it sits in the fridge).

Serve with a wide pasta like fettuccine or pappardelle with freshly grated parmesan and some parsley. To reheat add a dab of butter.

 

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