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Samuel Johnson (1709-84), English author, lexicographer.

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A Ragu is a hearty meat sauce from the Tuscan region in Italy. As with most Italian recipes, there are many variations. The meat is the star in this long-simmered thick meaty sauce. It's uses are endless. Goes well over tagliatelli, fettucine, ravioli, tortellini or gnocchi. Never serve over spaghetti.

Preparation Time: 30 minutes; 3 hours simmer    Serving Size: 8

  • 1/2 ounce dry porcini mushrooms
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 pound lean ground beef
  • 3/4 pound hot Italian sausage
  • 3/4 pound ground veal
  • 2 cups dry Tuscan red wine
  • (1) 28-ounce can whole tomatoes
  • kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper
  • fresh basil
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
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Place dry porcini's in a bowel and cover with 1 cup boiling water. Cover and allow to sit for 30 minutes. Carefully pluck the mushrooms out and place on a cutting board to chop. Reserve the liquid. Clean and then chop onion and celery into large chucks. Place in a food processor and pulse until chopped fine, but not minced. Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large heavy-bottom Dutch oven. Add onions and celery. Sprinkle with a little salt and stir. Cook, stirring often, until well softened, about 5 minutes. If the Italian sausage is in links, remove from the casings. Break the ground beef, sausage and veal over the softened vegetables. Sprinkle with a little salt and fresh cracked black pepper. Turn heat up slightly and brown the meat, stirring often, about 10 minutes. Turn the heat back down to medium and strain the reserved mushroom liquid into the pot. Add the chopped mushrooms and pour in the wine. Stir well. Pour the canned whole tomatoes into a large bowl and crush by hand. Add the crushed tomatoes and its juice to the pot. Stir well. Allow to come back to heat. Adjust to allow a rapid simmer, but not a full boil. Simmer for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, uncovered, stirring often. Watch closely the last 30 minutes to avoid it drying out. Add 1/2 cup water at a time if necessary. Sauce is done when it develops a rich mahogany color and has thickened, almost to the look and consistency of sloppy joes. Serve as desired with chiffonade fresh basil and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and a drizzle or two of olive oil.

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