Cooking With Nicole: Turkey Ragú

Hello my friends! I know I haven’t done one of these in a while, mostly because I haven’t been cooking. I live alone, and don’t really entertain much in Pennsylvania, so cooking hasn’t been top of my list.

That said, I’ll be in London on July first for a whole month and I have loads of friends there, and friends coming in from places, and friends, friends, friends. For whom I intend to cook, seducing them into visions of domestic bliss with me living amongst them. And then hopefully one of them will offer to transport me  to London and sponsor the louche lifestyle to which I’ve become accustomed. Think it will happen?

It might, actually, if I make what I’m about to show you. It’s a simple ragú, which is fancy for a meat-based pasta sauce. They’re thicker and chunkier than your normal tomato sauce, with more stuff than tomato, if that makes sense. I love ragús, but the problem with them is that they’re very heavy for summer. Granted, I’m going to London and not Hawaii, but still. No one wants to eat a winter meal on a summer day.

Then I saw this recipe over at the New York Times. I loved a number of things about it: I loved that it looked a bit lighter than most ragús, especially with the use of turkey meat instead of the beef, veal, and pork many recipes call for. But I also loved that except for being a tad bit lighter, it wasn’t too fucked with–the soffritto is the traditional onions, carrots, celery, and garlic, without any Neapolitan flourishes like dried fruit or nuts.

Anyway, it looked good, it looked like something my friends will eat, and it looked like something I can make a day ahead of someone’s arrival, so that he has a nice meal waiting for him while I get to enjoy his company rather than my kitchen’s. That’s my perfect kinda cookin’, right there. 😉

The first thing I did, as the recipe calls for, was to render my pancetta. Unfortunately, I no longer live in a place where pancetta is readily available. But a nice, thick-cut, bacon will do nicely. Now, this recipe is on crack with its timings, especially the fat rendering. It’ll take longer than 2-3 minutes to properly render some bacon, and bacon is nothing if not properly rendered. 😉

So plan for about 5-10 minutes, depending on how much fat is on your pancetta.  Here’s mine, fresh in the pan. Mmmmmm. Bacon.

While the bacon cooked, I chopped up all the vegetables. Remember to chop the soffritto finely–it’s supposed to be almost like a paste as it cooks down, not like a bunch of chicken-soup vegetables. I cut corners by grating the carrots, rather than chopping. I also threw in a bunch of mushrooms I had left over from the party I’d held a few days earlier. They were delicious, giving the ragú a nice earthy flavor and chunkier texture. Here’s my lovely veg all ready to go in the pot:

The next step is to take the bacon out and put it on a plate, but leave the fat in the pan. Pour in the olive oil, then add your vegetables. And here’s what you want them to cook down to. They should be soft, and just starting to get golden and stick to the pan. You don’t want to burn the hell out of anything, but you want some lovely caramelization happening so you can scrape up all that goodness when your wine goes in.

When the vegetables are done, take them out and add them to the same plate that you did your bacon. Then fry up your turkey, breaking it up so it’s in nice small chunks and cooked through. Then you just throw all the veg and bacon back in, and add your red wine. Let that cook on the bottom of the pan for a few seconds, then start scraping all that caramelized goodness up into the sauce with a wooden spoon (be sure to use wooden as many pots are damaged by metal spoons). This is called deglazing your pan, for those of you who give a toss. 😉 When  you’ve got all that lovely goodness off the bottom of the pan, then season everything and add the crushed tomatoes. It’ll look like this as it cooks down:

To serve, spoon some sauce over pasta and add a dollop of ricotta cheese.

This sauce is super easy, super fast, and tastes relatively light for the season. But it’s absolutely delicious, and you can really taste the vegetables, the garlic, and that lovely bacon.

Buon appetito!

Posted by Nicole Peeler

Author, Professor, Lover, Fighter

One thought on “Cooking With Nicole: Turkey Ragú”

  1. Mouth is watering and I am a vegetarian. Will have to feed this to my family. Thanks for the recipe.

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