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Jan 6, 2002 11:10 AM

Ragu from Lynn Kasper's Splendid Table

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Has anyone made this ragu from Lynn Kasper's "Splendid Table" - or a similar meat ragu that uses MILK, wine, prosciutto, pancetta, and the usual trio of meats? What was your experience with it?

Any thoughts on the use of the milk before I do it? I've assembled the ingredients, but I'm having some qualms about the milk.

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    Pat Goldberg


    Milk is pretty standard in Bolognese sauce. See, for example, Marcella Hazan's recipe in "Classic Italian." I have made that on several occasions and it has turned out well. I would include the milk.

    Pat G.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Pat Goldberg

      Pat, Thanks for your reassuring answer. I posted the question as neutrally as possible, but what troubles me about this recipe is that the amount of milk called for may have a misprint: for only 1 lb of meat it calls for 2 cups of milk, 1 1/2 cups of stock and 2/3 cup of wine to what is a total of 1 lb of meat.

      The ratio of meat: wine and liquid and the ratio of milk: wine and stock seems off to me. Most of the bolognese recipes I've seen call for 1/2 - 1 cup of milk or cream. And as this recipe cooks for only 2 hours, it's not going to reduce that much.

      On the other hand, I'm making it because Kasper's baked polenta dish calls specifically for this recipe... and also I like it's enrichment by the addition of prosciutto and pancetta unlike many other Bolognese sauces. (Hazan's sauce from Classic Italian Cookbook omits them, as do many others I've checked on the web.)

      1. re: Saucyknave

        I'm assuming you're making the "Country Style Ragu" from the book, The Splendid Table, right? If so, the liquid to meat ratio isn't that alarming considering that she basically calls for you to reduce the wine and a cup of the stock to nothing before you even add that 2 cups of milk. Left partially covered and allowed to bubble slightly, it should reduce into an appropriately textured sauce in the time she says.

        I would just be sure to keep the heat slightly higher than a simmer as you're reducing the stock and wine, and bring it down after you've got the milk going.

        1. re: Saucyknave

          American milk, even "whole" milk is so thin that when i cook with it, i usually use a 50/50 mix of milk and cream. Or good (non-ultra-pasturized) half&half.

        2. re: Pat Goldberg

          Totally off-topic - but now I see where the Jewish proscription against mixing meat and dairy ("thou shalt not seethe a kid in its mother's milk") comes from - beef simmered in milk!

          Nonetheless, I am not Jewish, and I don't keep kosher, but that recipe just struck me as the textbook example of that. (It sounds delicious, though. I love Bolognese sauce but never make it because my beloved doesn't like meat sauce.)

        3. I have made it and it turned out very well

          1 Reply
          1. re: rjka

            Great! Thanks Rkja.

          2. Kaspar's "Country Ragu" is my standard meat ragu. It's never failed. Have no qualms about the milk. Tom Meg's observations about the end product are spot on. Also, I usually double the recipe when I make it. It's easy but takes a bit of time and I like it so much I don't mind having leftover meat sauce to enjoy again a day or two later.

            1. I'm so glad I asked! Your comments have all been very helpful. Now that I know the recipe works and have some chef's trucs from Cliff and Tom, I'll make a double batch as Dee Gustay suggested and freeze some up (instead of freezing the extra meat). Thanks to all of you for your help.

              1. Thought I'd let you know how it turned out. I followed the recipe closely except that I used half 2% milk (routine in my fridge) and half cream. I ground the meat at home coarsely, so the texture was perfect. (I never use store ground meat anymore.)

                My kids really liked it; I thought it was good, but lacked any special quality or flavor complexity. I may make it again using the sausage instead of the pork tenderloin. But I'm just as likely to try another version of ragu.