In winter I pack the flavour into a meat ragu using red wine, dried porcini and the like, but this version is better suited to warmer weather. It's still intensely flavoured, but lighter, with a subtle creamy texture.
100ml extra virgin olive oil, plus extra
1 small brown onion
4 cloves garlic, finely sliced
2 small carrots, finely diced
3 stalks celery, sliced and leaves chopped
100g pancetta, finely diced
300g beef mince
300g pork mince
200ml dry white wine
2 fresh bay leaves
½ a whole nutmeg, finely grated
Freshly ground black pepper
500 ml quality chicken stock (unsweetened and unsalted)
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 x 400g tins crushed tomatoes
½ cup frozen peas
2 handfuls fresh basil leaves
Parmigiano reggiano or grana padano, finely grated, to serve
1. In a large heavy-based pot over medium heat add the oil and butter and fry the onion and garlic for about five minutes. Add the carrot and celery with the chopped leaves and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes or until nicely caramelised.
2. Add the pancetta, stir through and fry briefly. Add the mince bit by bit, crumbling it in with your hands and stirring it as it browns - the idea here is to keep the heat in the pan to make sure the mince fries.
3. Once the meat is browned, add the wine and simmer for a couple of minutes, lifting any caramelisation off the pan with a wooden spoon as you go. Once the liquid is almost gone, add the milk, bay leaves and nutmeg and season lightly. Reduce by two thirds.
4. Add the stock, tomato paste, tomatoes and a tomato tin of water and cook for a further two hours or so - the sauce should have reduced and the flavours meshed and intensified. Check and adjust the seasoning. You can freeze the sauce at this point, but letting a ragu like this stand in the fridge for a day or two improves the flavour so much. You only need half the sauce, so set aside half for later use.
5. To serve, cook the pasta until al dente, warm half the sauce, add the peas and pasta and tear in the basil, and toss. Add a handful of cheese and a splash of olive oil, toss through again and serve with plenty of grated cheese on the side.