Winter-Spiced Meat Ragu: One Sauce, Four Holiday Entertaining Ideas
There are as many meat sauces as there are home cooks, but this one is made with a wintery twist, making it one worthy of knowing about. It starts off like so many of the others: sauté beef, onions and garlic in a little oil. Add seasonings, tomato paste, wine and Hunt’s Heirloom Whole Tomatoes. Sounds typical, right? It is, except that instead of infusing the sauce with oregano and basil this one is spiked with bay leaves, cinnamon sticks and orange peel making the sauce seasonal but not overpowering.
The best thing about this sauce is that it can be served in a variety of ways. Just do yourself a favour and make it a day or more in advance. We like simplifying things by using Hunt’s Heirloom Tomatoes, which add rich flavour and are naturally vine-ripened and picked at the peak of freshness. Better yet, double or even triple the recipe and freeze the extras. While you can certainly serve it with long, thick noodles like pappardelle or tagliatelle, we also like the idea of choosing one of our four variations below, all of which are designed for easy holiday feasting.
Shepard’s Pie: Top the tomatoey meat sauce with mashed spuds or sweet potatoes, sprinkle with breadcrumbs and bake for a crisp take on a classic dish. Alternatively, make an Italian version by frying up half a pound of smoky pancetta, adding it to leftover meat ragu and scattering cheesy gnocchi on top for an Italian twist.
Stuffed Peppers: There’s no denying that holiday guests love comfort food, but everyone appreciates a healthy interruption every once in a while. They’ll find it with these stuffed peppers, a gluten-free dinner option that’s nothing more than hollowed out peppers stuffed with a mix of rice and winter-spiced meat ragu (equal parts of both). Top with shredded mozzarella and bake at 375°F for 30 minutes before setting until the broiler for another two.
Mini Meat Pies: Impress your guests this holiday season with mini meat pies served alongside glasses of mulled wine. All that’s required is a pound of puff pastry and a cup of leftover winter-spiced meat ragu to make this crave-worthy creation. Cut the puff pastry into 3-inch squares, add a spoonful of the meat to the centre and fold over to create a triangle. Brush with egg wash and bake according to the puff pastry package directions.
Bolognese Bruschetta: Traditional bruschetta is made with slices of toasted baguette topped with chopped tomatoes, basil, garlic and olive oil. The fresh garden-grown ingredients make it an ideal summer appetizer. In the cold-weather months, Hunt’s Heirloom Tomatoes stand in and this twist on bruschetta is one that your friends and family will come clamouring for. Top the toast slices with warmed winter-spiced meat ragu, shredded Parmesan and a touch of basil. For extra decadence, place a slice of mozzarella on top of the baguette and melt it before topping with the meat sauce.
This post is brought to you by Hunt’s Heirloom Tomatoes but the images and opinions are our own.
Winter-Spiced Meat Ragu
Makes 4 to 6 cups
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 small onions, diced
- 4 cloves of garlic, grated or pressed
- 1 lb. ground lamb or beef
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1 large piece orange peel
- 4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon ground pepper
- 2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, chopped
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 cup white wine
- 3 (398 mL) cans Hunt’s Heirloom Whole Tomatoes
Prep and Cook
- Heat the oil in a medium Dutch oven set over medium high heat. Add the onion and cook the until they are translucent and slightly browned.
- Stir in the garlic, then add the meat, bay leaf, cinnamon sticks, orange peel, Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper and rosemary. Sauté, stirring often and breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, for 8 to 10 minutes or until the meat is browned.
- Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 1 minute. Add the wine and cook for five minutes, stirring occasionally, or until it begins to evaporate. Add the Hunt’s Heirloom Whole Tomatoes and cook for a few minutes. Stir in 1/3 cup of water and allow to simmer for 60 to 90 minutes or so until the sauce has thickened.
- Tip: If you have any parmesan cheese rinds on hand, toss one into the pot with all of the ingredients for great depth of flavour.