The word ragù refers to a sauce, usually of minced meat mixed with vegetables, stewed at a low temperature for many hours.
The recipe has French origins and began to circulate during the Renaissance as an accompaniment to other dishes.
But it has been in Italy that the French ragôut went from being almost a side dish to a ragù. When the ingredients began to be more finely ground, it became the perfect sauce for pasta we all know. And although each Italian region has created unique and diverse recipes, the most famous and oldest are those of the Bolognese and Neapolitan tradition.
But today I would like to share a vegetarian ragout recipe. Lentil and bean ragù is a vegetarian dressing for pasta which won’t make you miss meat. It is made with lentils, borlotti beans, fresh herbs, soffritto (onion, carrot, celery) and vegetable stock.
Lentil And Borlotti Bean Ragù.
This is a serious ragù.
I have wanted to develop a vegetarian ragout recipe for some time, so using legumes was an almost obvious choice. For several reasons.
The first is that legumes hold up to long cooking times by melting just right.
Moreover, beans are traditionally the protein ingredient that replaced meat on the peasant table and that, for their taste, they remember.
After a long cooking time over a gentle flame, you will get an intense flavor that won’t make you miss the meat.
Beans and lentils.
I chose small, green lentils that don’t need to be soaked and dry borlotti beans that need to be cooked twice.
The evening before cooking the meat sauce, I soak the beans in cold water.
The day after I remove the water, wash borlotti under running water and boil them for 15 minutes in about 600-700ml of cold water, not forgetting to add the scent of a sprig of rosemary, which the borlotti beans absorb during cooking.
I used the tasty cooking water from the beans as vegetable stock when cooking the meat sauce.
You can use already cooked beans (no added flavors): just be careful about the quantities you have to adjust, but you will find everything before the recipe.
To obtain a bean ragù with an enveloping but rustic consistency, after a first cooking I finely blend one part of the legumes and the other part in a coarser way, leaving some lentils and some beans whole.
The importance of using fresh herbs in the legume ragù.
Aromatics are essential for this recipe.
Some rosemary to give flavor to the beans and their cooking water.
A boquet garnì of rosemary, sage and laurel to add fragrant notes and aroma to the ragù.
To make the small bunch, I tie the aromatic herbs together with kitchen string, trying to wrap the rosemary between the sage and laurel leaves so that it does not lose its leaves or as little as possible.
On the blog you will find more ragù recipes. Most of them are of Bolognese tradition, those of sausage, bacon and the traditional Bolognese one of minced meat, and also of Romagna tradition, like the parsley sauce. Among the other recipes there is also a sauce, not a real ragù, that I have called Via Emilia, with local asparagus from Altedo (a little village in the Bologna area).
The spice I used and some Bolognese kitchen notes.
The curry is the note that you don’t recognize but which, in my opinion, makes this ragù special.
I decided to use it because I remembered a lesson I learned by some Bolognese cooking experts who use harissa or curry also in the preparation of traditional recipes.
In the long cooking, well mixed with the other ingredients, if the harissa adds an intense flavor, the curry takes an incredible step backwards, giving a complex and stratified taste to the dish. in this case, rosemary perhaps emerges more than curry.
Even if the curry is there making a big difference.
You should know that curry and harissa, arrived in Bolognese kitchens with soldiers returning from colonial-era military campaigns in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Perhaps one of the few positive notes of that unhappy season of Italian foreign policy.
So it was that some Bolognese cooks began to use these exotic ingredients without revealing their presence. Even today, some old-school cooks say they learned at home from their grandmothers. And although many Italians today use and eat spicy dishes, the use by these cooks ‘of age and experience’ hints at a historical link to that colonial past.
Make a bet? Don’t reveal its presence and let’s see who among your tasters can spot it among the ingredients of the ragout.
Which kind of pasta using for this ragù.
I have tried this ragout with dry pasta and with fresh egg pasta.
Short and long.
Even on bread to make croutons.
It works well with everything.
Dried or cooked canned beans?
You can use both, but pay attention to the weight.
Dried beans almost double in weight after soaking in water.
So if you buy a ready-to-use product, consider that you will need about 350-400g of beans.
For lentils, I choose a variety that doesn’t need to be soaked.
If you buy a ready-to-use product, you will need about the same weight as what you read in the ingredients (about 100-120g of product).
In both cases, if you buy produce in jars or tins, do not use their liquid and rinse under running water. As you will lack the cooking water for the beans, prepare about 1 litre of vegetable stock, perhaps lightly flavored with rosemary (1/2 sprig).
Buona cucina, Monica
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Lentil And Borlotti Bean Ragù
dried borlotti beans, 200g
vegetable stock, about 700ml
curry powder, 4g
tomato paste, 40g
yellow or white onion, 1
celery, 1 or 2 little stalks
some sage and laurel leaves and 2 rosemary sprigs
red wine, ½ glass
olive oil, butter and salt to taste
Soak the dried beans in cold water for one night.
The next day, drain, rinse and boil in plenty of unsalted water with one fresh sprig of rosemary. When the water comes to the boil, continue cooking over a medium-low heat for about 15 minutes.
Turn off the heat and drain, filtering the cooking water from the beans, which should not be thrown away.
From the freshly cooked beans, try to remove most of the rosemary leaves with the help of tongs.
Set the cooking water and beans aside.
Wash and dry the aromatic herbs in the bunch, tie with kitchen string and set aside.
Peel and finely chop the onion.
Separately, clean and finely chop the carrot and celery.
Pour olive oil into the bottom of a high-sided pan, add a few flakes of butter, a pinch of salt and all the onion. Start frying gently and when the onion becomes translucent, add the carrot and cook for two minutes before adding the celery.
Allow the celery to settle in the pan before adding the lentils, which you have previously rinsed under running water.
Then, after the lentils, immediately add the beans.
Stir again, add a pinch of salt, the water from the beans (about 300ml, if you have less liquid, just add water), then the wine, stir, let the alcohol evaporate for a few minutes then add curry and concentrate, a pinch of salt, stir well, cover with 1/2 liter of stock.
Before adding the bouquet garnì, which you have to gently push down with a spoon into the middle of the legumes, stir again.
Then add a little olive oil and cover the pan, not completely, with a lid.
Cook over a low heat on a small flame, stirring occasionally, for about 45 minutes.
If it seems to be drying too much, add more stock or water.
After this time, turn off the heat, remove the aromatic bouquet, remove 1/3 of the legumes and blend the rest with a hand blender.
Depending on your taste, opt for smooth or more rustic cream. I like it smooth and velvety.
Add to the mixture the part of the legumes which you have set aside and, and once again, mix all coarsely so that some lentils and whole or crumbled pieces of beans remain in the ragù. Always according to your taste.
If you have blended all or part of the legumes, add more olive oil or stock and cook for a further 20 minutes.
Taste and add salt if necessary.
Store in the fridge or freezer.
Season the pasta as you like after cooking it al dente and serve with grated parmigiano aside.