White Ragu with Ground Beef & Balsamic Vinegar on Fusilli Pasta is easy, delicious, rustic and different enough to be exciting. Affiliate links have been used to link to items I am discussing in this post.
I got so distracted thinking about why it had never occurred to me cook tomatoes into a Thai curry before that I totally forgot to share any kitchen pics with you guys last time. Ooops! So we will skip the point at which we had cupboards with no doors, no counters and no appliances, and move on to where we are now:
We are cooking now, but only with a few select pans. We are still waiting on hardware (pulls, etc) so we have not filled the cabinets or drawers yet. And the granite in the coffee center/wet bar will be different from the existing granite so it has not been done yet. As you can see, the backsplash tile is not done and we still need a chimney around our vent and fresh paint on the walls. But guys let’s get back to what is super exciting and new–the induction cooktop.
As I mentioned, I don’t have access to much. I had to order all new induction-compatible nonstick cookware, so I did have access to that since it had arrived recently. I was not sure if the remodel guys were coming back the next day, so I did not want to go hunting for things like spices, knives, cutting boards or even pots and drainers to make pasta or rice. So I went shopping for things like tiny baby redskin potatoes, pre-chopped veggies including onions and ground beef. While I was out I happened to notice the latest frontera offering: skillet sauces. This is not a sponsored post, but I am a huge Rick Bayless fan (Mexican cuisine expert and University of Michigan grad–what’s not to love?) and usually willing to check out his various convenience foods. Since I could not get to any spices, etc, I decided to try one, and guess what?
It was delicious! I tossed a splash of vinegar in at the end because I had it and I added some squeeze tube fresh garlic paste because it was easily accessible in the fridge, but otherwise I just used the sauce with ground beef and veggies (including onions and potatoes). The whole family enjoyed the meal! And the cooking process? The induction is amazing. Leaving my tried and true gas for induction was a huge risk–or at least it felt like one–and I am in love with it! There will be a learning curve to the controls (they are kind of a touch screen slide), but the sensitivity and instant response is amazing. There is actually a level below simmer! And yes the boil happens as fast as you have heard. If you are thinking about taking the plunge on a new cooktop, so far I definitely recommend considering it at the least. No remorse here!
OK back to this mouthwatering White Ragu with Ground Beef and Balsamic Vinegar. I chose to serve it on a fusilli pasta because I will always opt for the more fun pasta shapes, but serve it with whatever pasta you want. I am not sure how traditional this white ragu is because I found it in Padma Lakshmi’s Tangy Tart Hot and Sweet: A World of Recipes for Every Day, not an Italian cookbook. I did some online searches, and the concept of a white ragu definitely exists beyond Padma Lakshmi’s brain, but as far as I can see, it is her creativity that adds balsamic vinegar to the recipe. No matter whose idea it is, trust me when I say it is sheer genius.
I am not a huge Alfredo fan, especially as it is done in this country, as I really need some pop or excitement with my fat (to put it bluntly). A plain cream sauce is just so, well, plain. But holy cow add some balsamic and we are talking about a whole different ballgame. I would call this white ragu every bit as flavorful as the colorful version, i.e., the version with tomatoes. Be sure to use a less expensive balsamic vinegar during the cooking process and a nicer, richer, more aged balsamic for drizzling over the finished meal.
Adapted from Padma Lakshmi. You could also make this with ground turkey, or really any ground meat you like, but I prefer the robust flavor of beef, plus it is what I keep on hand.
- 2 T olive oil
- 2 T butter
- 3 medium red onions, thinly sliced
- 1/2 T dried oregano
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 pinches coarse Aleppo Pepper
- 200 g beech or bunapi mushrooms, chopped (crimini or button mushrooms would work fine too)
- Salt to taste
- 1/2 T freshly dried thyme leaves (or substitute 1 tablespoon fresh thyme)
- 1 1/2 T balsamic vinegar
- 1 1/2 lbs ground beef
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 2 ladles pasta cooking water, divided
- 1/4 cup grated pecorino cheese
- 1/2 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
- 1 lb dried pasta, cooked to desired doneness (or equivalent fresh pasta)
- chopped flat leaf parsley
- grated Pecorino Romano
- Drizzled Balsamico (a better, more aged balsamic vinegar) see notes
Heat the olive oil and butter in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. When it is hot, add the onions with a pinch of salt. Let cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.
Add the dried oregano and bay leaves and let the onions continue to cook, another 5 minutes.
Add the aleppo pepper and another pinch of salt. When the onions are beginning to caramelize, reduce heat to medium and add the mushrooms with another pinch of salt. Stir into the onions.
Cook, stirring, for around 5 minutes until water starts to evaporate from the mushrooms. Add the thyme and mix in.
Deglaze the pan with the balsamic vinegar. Stir and scrape up any browned bits.
Add the ground beef. Stir it into the mushrooms and onions, breaking it up into tiny pieces.
Cook the ground beef, stirring occasionally, until it is browned, 5-10 minutes.
Add the heavy cream and one ladle (about 1/2 cup) of the pasta cooking water. Reduce the heat to medium low to maintain a gentle simmer. Let simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
If the sauce seems to be getting kind of dry (mine did), add another ladle of pasta cooking water. Stir in and let cook for a few minutes to absorb.
Stir in the grated Pecorino Romano.
When you are ready to serve, stir the 1/2 cup chopped flat leaf parsley into the ragu. Top the sauce on pasta and garnish it with more flat leaf parsley, more grated Pecorino Romano and a drizzle of aged balsamic vinegar.
When I say a good Balsamic vinegar for drizzling, I mean a bottle probably in the $30-$40 range--please do not use that $100 bottle of balsamic vinegar in this situation (if you even own one--I know I do not!!).
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