After another meal of this maddeningly delicious dish and the constant requests for the recipe, I give you the "Tuscan meat ragu" that makes the above pasta al forno... Shhhh, don't tell anyone.
Inspired by Trattoria Mario, Florence Italy. Original recipe to remain secret out of loyalty and respect to Chef Romeo.
This version: Jonathan Forgash
Tuscan meat ragu:
1 lg or 2 med. red onions peeled
1lg carrot peeled
3 stalks celery
1 bunch parsley
6 basil leaves or 1 tablespoon dry.
2 cloves garlic chopped
2 tablespoon fresh rosemary chopped
1 sm lemon zested
2lbs ground brisket (including all the fat, it's the secret ingredient.)
2 cups chianti or similar
16oz crushed tomatoes.
Salt and red pepper flakes.
Tuscan spice blend (makes enough for more dishes)
1 tablespoon each: (Ground) corriander, cinnamon, all spice, nutmeg, anise, cumin.
Grind first 5 ingredients in food processor and into pot with plenty of olive oil.
Saute till soft and browned (do not burn), About 20 minutes at medium heat.
Add the garlic, rosemary and lemon zest. Stir till fragrant.
Add ground brisket, mix in well. Turn up heat to saute. When meat is browned, lower heat and simmer uncovered 45 minutes. You want it all to be a nice dark mixture.
Add wine and simmer another 20 minutes.
Add crushed tomato and some water from rinsing out the can, 2 tablespoons Tuscan spice blend, salt and red pepper flakes (just enough to feel a bit of heat later). Stir and low simmer partially covered 1hr.
Your kitchen should have a rich meaty aroma with background hints of Cinnamon and nutmeg. Taste and adjust for salt, heat, Tuscan spice. Do what you will to make it your own. It will not be a very wet sauce nor should it have much of a tomato flavor. This is all about the hearty meat flavor with some unusual yet wonderful flavors.
Dish #1 Cheese tortolini with Tuscan ragu.
Use some of this ragu to sauce cheese tortolini and add some grated aged Parmesan to complete the dish.
Dish #2 Pasta al forno
Prepare 2 cups bechamel sauce.
4 tablespoon butter, 4 tablespoon flour. Mix in pan till combined and blond.
Add 2 cups milk. Stir till just thickened.
Mix in 2 cups Tuscan meat sauce and simmer 30 minutes.
Mix sauce into cooked rigatoni, add a handful of grated aged Parmesan. Pour into casserole and bake in oven at 325 till cooked through and top is slightly browned. Basically you are just cooking through the dish as all the ingredients are all ready cooked.
Serve with grated Parmesan and a good Northern Italian red wine.